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Understanding Waste Diversion

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In 1989, the Integrated Waste Management Act (AB 939) was passed and enacted Public Resources Code (PRC) section 41780, which required a 25% reduction of solid waste disposal by cities and counties by 1995 and 50% by 2000. The planning requisites in this section require waste diversion from landfill or transformation facilities through source reduction, recycling, and composting activities identified in city, county and regional agency Source Reduction and Recycling Elements (SRRE).

Under AB 939, diversion was calculated from a base year, where the State calculated: 1) how much waste was prevented (waste prevention), 2) how much waste was recycled and composted; and 3) how much waste was disposed.  The total of these three activities was considered the total waste generated. The total materials prevented, recycled and composted were considered diverted and the tons landfilled were not diverted. This was the process that was used to determine whether the City achieved the 50% diversion mandate.   

The City easily met the 1995 goal of 25% diversion, but meeting the 2000 goal was not as easy. In 2000, California’s waste reporting system was based on estimates of population, employment and taxable sales, not on the amount of trash disposed.  Due to a surging economy, high levels of business activity and construction, achieving a 50% diversion rate was more difficult for Davis.  Diversion rates did not include the tons of yard materials that were collected each week for composting by DWR—the State’s calculations did not consider these materials “diverted” using their reporting procedures. The City did achieve the State-calculated 50% diversion in 2001.

Sate-calculated waste diversion 1995-2006.

In 2007, SB 1016 was passed, changing the way the State Department of Resources, Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) measured waste diversion. The goal of the new per capita disposal measurement system was to make the AB 939 process of goal measurement simpler, timelier, and more accurate. SB 1016 changed to a disposal-based indicator—the per capita disposal rate—which uses only two factors: a jurisdiction's population (or in some cases employment) and its disposal as reported by disposal facilities. The AB 939 50% solid waste disposal reduction requirement is now measured in terms of per-capita disposal expressed as pounds of waste generated per person per day, or pounds per employee per day. The focus is on program implementation, actual recycling, and other diversion programs instead of estimated numbers.

The State of California took another step to increase diversion in 2011, when the governor signed AB 341, increasing the current State goal from 50% diversion to 75% recycling by 2020.  AB 341 also created the Mandatory Commercial Recycling law, which requires all businesses that generate four or more cubic yards of waste each week and all multi-family communities with five or more units to arrange for recycling service.

In 2014 The State passed AB 1826—the Mandatory Commercial Recycling law, which required certain businesses to recycle their organic wastes (food scraps, food-soiled paper and landscape trimmings) on and after April 1, 2016, depending on the amount of waste they generate per week.

All Davis businesses that fall under the Mandatory Commercial Recycling and the Mandatory Commercial Organics Recycling Law are already required to recycle under Chapter 32 of the Davis Municipal Code.  Davis recycling program staff works with Recology to perform yearly compliance reviews as required by the State. These reviews are part of the annual report that is submitted to CalRecycle.

Brand new program, outreach, monitoring, and reporting requirements for Cities are being formulated as part of AB 1383, the Short-Lived Climate Pollutants regulations. These regulations establish methane emissions reduction targets as part of a statewide effort to reduce emissions of short-lived climate pollutants in various sectors of California's economy. Among other things, these regulations require cities to establish, provide widespread outreach for and implement extensive monitoring of organics collection programs. Fortunately, due to the implementation of the City-wide Organics Collection Program in 2016, the City is already on-track with some of the new requirements. These new state-mandates requirements are not yet finalized, but the City is tracking the rulemaking process.

As of January 2019, the City is in compliance with all State-mandated waste diversion regulations.