New CA Law: Organics Out of the Landfill

Have you been noticing a push for composting in your community? Are you receiving more messaging about proper waste sorting? There’s a reason you’re seeing increased outreach about compost, waste reduction, and perhaps even information about the greenhouse gas methane. Back in 2016, California passed a statewide law called Senate Bill 1383 (SB 1383) to reduce harmful emissions in our environment. CalRecycle, the governing body responsible for creating SB 1383 regulatory standards, identified a large source of methane is found in landfills, specifically from organic, compostable material (meaning food scraps, food/beverage soiled paper, and yard trimmings).

SB 1383 impacts all generators of organic, compostable material, which means the law impacts all residents and commercial businesses in California. All generators are now required to properly sort their waste, by either placing food scraps, food/beverage soiled paper products, and yard trimmings in the compost, or self-hauling compostable material to a composting facility or program. Jurisdictions (cities, counties and special districts) have the authority to assess a fine for non-compliance.

To further inform the public of this law, RethinkWaste hosted two community town halls where CalRecycle, Recology, and RethinkWaste staff presented on how the law affects residents and businesses and fielded questions from attendees. Below are some of the common questions we received.

1. How does the law impact schools?

Schools will subscribe to compost and recycle services. In San Mateo County, many will also likely incorporate food share tables to reduce food waste on-site.

2. How does the law impact condos and apartments?

If not already subscribed to compost services, condos and apartments will need to reach out to Recology San Mateo County to begin services. Recology will assess the property and work collaboratively with property managers to provide technical assistance, trainings, waste audits, and educational materials for property managers and residents. Reach out to Recology through their online contact form.

3. How will this impact apartment buildings that do not have space for additional trash receptacles?

Once property managers begin the process of adding compost services to their apartments or condos, Recology’s Waste Zero team will work closely with property managers and/or staff to assess garbage services and space limitations to right-size their services.

4. Where can we find resources for proper sorting in each bin?

Visit com where you can choose your specific city and use Recology’s searchable list to find out where certain items go. Feel free to also check out RethinkWaste’s sorting page for images of signage along with waste reduction tips.

5. How will the state enforce compliance?

Compliance will fall on jurisdictions (cities, counties or special districts). CalRecycle will handle compliance for public schools, state, federal facilities, and any entities that city or county jurisdictions don’t have authority over. However, jurisdictions are still responsible for outreach and education.

SB 1383 will be a challenge well worth-it, and here in the RethinkWaste service area, we have been very proactive about its implementation. We will continue to work with our community partners to comply with SB 1383 regulations and welcome more community partners to get involved in the pressing issue of climate change.

Have you ever thought about the environment of a landfill? Items that end up at a landfill get buried into the ground and packed tightly into the Earth, where it sits for years. When compostable material breaks down in an environment like the landfill, there’s no oxygen for the material to properly break down, causing it to release the potent greenhouse gas methane. Eliminating organic materials from ever reaching the landfill is one way we can all do our part in fighting climate change.

For more information, visit our SB 1383 webpage.