California climate strategies: Meeting organic waste challenges


Hospitals across California are required to be in compliance with the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery organic waste reduction mandates.

California has implemented several regulations to increase the diversion of organic materials away from landfills and toward the production of value-added products like compost, fertilizers, and biofuels.

California disposes approximately 30 million tons of waste in landfills each year, and more than 30% of the state’s waste could be used for compost or mulch. Organic waste (including green and food materials) is recyclable through composting, mulching, animal feeding, and anaerobic digestion, which can produce renewable energy and fuel, or animal feeding.

Greenhouse gases from the decomposition of organic wastes in landfills are a significant contributor to climate change. The AB 32 (California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006) scoping plan calls for reducing the amount of organic materials sent to landfills and increasing the production of compost and mulch.

California’s AB 32 is fundamental to the California Air Resources Board’s short-lived climate pollutant strategy and one of California’s strategies for reaching the statewide 75% recycling goal. Collecting and processing organic materials, particularly food, is the focus of AB 1826 and SB 1383.

AB 1826 Mandatory commercial organics recycling 

This 2014 law requires businesses, including hospitals and health care organizations, to collect and process their organic waste (e.g. organics recycling) if they generate two cubic yards or more of solid waste per week. California’s overall goal is to achieve a 75% reduction of the statewide disposal of organic waste from the 2014 level by 2025. This means that most hospitals must have an organics recycling plan in place today.

SB 1383 Short-lived climate pollutants (organic waste methane emissions reductions)

In California, 18% of the material in landfills is food, and another 19% is other non-food organics. That’s six million tons of waste. Additionally, 4.9 million Californians are food insecure. That’s one out of every eight people.

SB 1383 mandates both the reduction of organic waste going to the landfill and the recovery of edible food. Put into law by the California Air Resources Board, this law establishes targets to achieve a 75% reduction in the statewide disposal of organic waste from the 2014 level by 2025 (similar to AB1826). The law grants CalRecycle the regulatory authority required to achieve the organic waste disposal reduction targets and establishes an additional target that at least 20% of currently disposed edible food is recovered for human consumption by 2025. 


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