Mandatory Commercial Organics Recycling Law

AB 1826: Mandatory Commercial Organics Recycling Law

A 2014 state-wide waste characterization report found that organic materials such as food scraps, leaves, grass, and branch trimmings made up 37.4% of the waste stream. Food was the single most prevalent material disposed, making up 18.1% of the entire waste stream by itself -- that's 5.6 million tons collected from one study. When these materials are disposed of in a landfill, they produce methane, which is a greenhouse gas 25 times more potent than CO2 and a major contributor to climate change. To address this issue, Governor Brown signed AB 1826 into state law in October 2014, mandating that commercial entities subscribe to an organic material hauling service or divert organic materials from the landfill through some other means.

Who's affected?

As of January 2019, all commercial entities producing more than 4 cubic yards of solid waste a week are affected by AB 1826. Please note that "solid waste" means the entire generated waste stream, including garbage, recyclables, and organic material. Some examples of commercial entities are:
•for-profit and non-profit organizations (e.g., restaurants, hotels, grocery stores, farms, industrial facilities, hospitals)
•government offices and agencies
•private and public schools
•multifamily residential dwellings with five or more units

Note: Multifamily residential dwellings are only required to have landscaping and yard debris composted. Residential food scrap composting is optional.

Examples of organic materials

CalRecycle, the state authority on waste management and recycling, defines organic matter or materials as "Material that comes from organisms that were once alive, or derived from or produced through the biological activity of a living thing." In other words, organic materials are all things that would break down in a landfill and produce methane (CH4) gas. Some examples include:
•food scraps (e.g., fruit, vegetables, meat, bones, shells, dairy)
•food-soiled paper (e.g. paper towels, napkins, delivery pizza boxes)
•landscaping or yard debris (e.g., leaves, grass clippings, branches)
•wood and lumber

How to get in compliance

Please contact Recology Sonoma Marin to have your organic materials transported to a compost facility. Their customer service representatives will help you choose a container size, location, and service frequency that is best for your situation. In most cases, adding organics service will be at no extra cost. They can provide educational materials and staff training as well.

If having organic materials hauled away isn't right for you or your organization, there are other options available. Doing any of the following, alone or in combination, will make an entity compliant with the law:

Donating food to feed people or animals (e.g., hogs or cattle)
On-site composting
•Self-hauling or back-hauling to a permitted compost facility
•Having a landscaping contractor haul away yard debris to a permitted compost facility

Please note that if your organization does not use a hauling company or sign up for organics hauling service, you will need to complete an exemption form, which you can find in the following section.

Possible exemptions

Some organizations may qualify for an exemption, but you must submit an exemption form (links below) for consideration. The following reasons apply:
•The amount of organic material produced each week is less than half a cubic yard
•There is not sufficient space for an organic material collection container on site
•A significant portion of organic material is already being diverted from landfill through other means, such as food donation to pig farms, on-site composting, self-hauling, or back-hauling

English: Exemption form for Recology customers
Español: El formulario de exención para clientes Recology

Available assistance

Recology Sonoma Marin or Zero Waste Sonoma (also known as Sonoma County Waste Management Agency, or SCWMA) staff are available to provide assistance in complying with AB 1826. These services come at no extra cost:

•On-site waste assessment
•Training for employees, staff, students, and residents
•Posters, guides, and other digital or print educational material
•Tabling, workshops, presentations, and other education/outreach events

Sonoma County Recycle Guides available for download

English: 2019 Recycle Guide
Español: 2019 Guía de Reciclaje


Contact Xinci Tan from Zero Waste Sonoma (also known as Sonoma County Waste Management Agency, or SCWMA) at [email protected] or 707-565-1733.