California Compost Law 2022 &
What It Means To You
As of January 1, 2022, people and organizations throughout California are required to separate organic material (mainly food scraps and yard waste) from other garbage.
The composting law was one of 770 California laws that went into effect at the beginning of 2022.
Senate Bill 1383, which contains the requirements for "Short-Lived Climate Pollutants", was approved by then state governor Gerry Brown on September 19, 2016.
What is composting?
Composting is the natural process of breaking down biodegradable materials into a rich soil known as compost.
The process of composting can be done with scraps from many different types of food — including fruits, vegetables, meat, bones, fish, shellfish, eggshells, bread, grains, and coffee grounds.
Paper towels and cardboard are also compostable. Your food-soiled pizza boxes can become compost.
How do California residents dispose of their organic waste?
As of the beginning 2022, California towns, cities, and counties need to provide compostables carts and associated organic waste collection services to all residents and businesses. Jurisdictions will have to recycle organic materials.
What is the reason for the California compost law?
Part of the reason the law came into being is that organic waste that's added to trash carts ends up in landfills. The EPA estimated that food waste accounted for over 21% of the waste in landfills in 2018.
When the waste breaks down in a landfill, it releases methane into the atmosphere. As a primary component of natural gas, methane is a greenhouse gas (GHG).
A goal of the state is to have a 75% reduction in the level of the statewide disposal of organic waste into landfills from the 2014 level by 2025.
Other benefits to composting
When you put coffee grounds and food scraps into a countertop bin, these items won't get into your drain lines and sewer line — and risk clogging them.
Using your garbage disposal less often can mean fewer visits to your home by an expensive plumber.
What's a good way to separate compostable food waste from garbage?
We have found that a good way to separate household organics from trash is on the kitchen countertop. CalRecycle has several suggestions for containers to use. This 1.3-gallon stainless steel bin has a lid with a charcoal filter that covers up odors.
Fill the bin as you go and then simply walk it out to your compostables cart as necessary — and dump the contents.
Ideally, the green cart should first have a bed of dry yard waste compostables or a piece of cardboard. Otherwise, the compostables will stick to the bottom of the cart.
Tip: If you're a bacon lover but you're tired of the mess involved with cooking it in a pan, you can microwave your bacon on three layers of paper towel. Then, toss the paper towel, bacon fat and all, into your countertop compost bin.
Note: Your local jurisdiction may have slightly different guidance from what's listed below as to what can and cannot go into a compostables cart. Please check with your local town, city or county.
What items can go into a compostables cart?
Food scraps - anything that's edible
✅ Meat (including bones)
✅ Fish & shellfish
✅ Dairy products
✅ Cooking grease & oils (in small amounts mixed with dry materials)
✅ Egg shells
✅ Coffee grounds
Paper & cardboard
Cardboard that is food-soiled is considered to be contaminated and should not go into the recycling container. But it can go into the compostables bin.
✅ Greasy pizza boxes
✅ Unwaxed paper plates
✅ Paper towels
✅ Lawn grass clippings
✅ Shrub & tree clippings
✅ Smaller branches (under 4 feet long and less than 3 inches in diameter)
What items should NOT go into a compostables cart?
Bio-degradable plastics, bags, cups, containers, and utensils are not considered to be "short-lived" and therefore should not go into the compostables cart. Any waxed cardboard such as milk containers should not go in either. There are certain types of vegetation that are not considered to be short-lived.
Here is a full list of items that should not go into your green cart and that should continue go into trash container for landfill.
❌ Compostable/bio-degradable plastics
❌ Compostable/bio-degradable bags
❌ Compostable/bio-degradable cups or containers
❌ Compostable/bio-degradable utensils
❌ Plastic bags
❌ To-go coffee cups and lids
❌ Plastic cups and lids
❌ Paper soft drink cups
❌ Paper soup cups
❌ Milk cartons (including non-dairy containers)
❌ Waxed cardboard or paper
❌ Palm fronds
❌ Agave americana (century plant)
❌ Poison Oak
❌ Pet or human waste
Here is a video from a California County that has information about what can and cannot be composted.
Fines for non-compliance will not take effect until January 2024. Any fines will be imposed by a local jurisdiction such as a city or county.
Keeping Compost Containers Clean
As part of California's Compost Law, millions of Californians will be adding more compostables than ever to their countertop containers and green recycle carts.
Compost material that's added to an empty container will cause the material to stick to the bottom. Here are some tips for keeping your kitchen container and green cart clean.
Green Cart Tips
Add a bed of yard waste to the bottom of your empty bin each week
Periodically scrape compost off of the bottom of the bin with a transfer shovel (square-shaped blade)
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