Today is America Recycles Day, a national initiative of Keep America Beautiful dedicated to promoting recycling in the United States. Each year, many communities and organizations across the country participate by promoting environmental citizenship and taking action to increase and improve recycling.
Recycling programs and requirements have been in place for decades. An emerging area that is, or will be, impacting facility management is handling organic waste. Materials that fall under the “organic waste” definition can include: food; garden, and lawn clippings; animal and plant based material; degradable carbon such as paper, cardboard, and timber. An increasing number of state and municipalities are discussing organic waste handling, and this is sure to impact an increasing number of facilities.
In California, requirements for organic waste handling has been ramping up for businesses, including multi-family residential dwellings that consist of five or more units. In October 2014 Governor Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill (AB) 1826 Chesbro (Chapter 727, Statutes of 2014), requiring businesses to recycle their organic waste on and after April 1, 2016, depending on the amount of waste they generate per week.
This law also required that on and after January 1, 2016, local jurisdictions across the state implement an organic waste recycling program to divert organic waste generated by businesses, including multifamily residential dwellings that consist of five or more units (multifamily dwellings not required to have a food waste diversion program).
According to the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle), organic waste (organics) refers to food waste, green waste, landscape and pruning waste, nonhazardous wood waste, and food-soiled paper waste that is mixed in with food waste. This law phases in the mandatory recycling of commercial organics over time (with some exemptions for rural facilities). In particular, the minimum threshold of organic waste generation by businesses decreases over time, which means an increasingly greater proportion of the commercial sector will be required to comply.
CalRecycle notes that organic waste such as green materials and food materials are recyclable through composting and mulching, and through anaerobic digestion, which can produce renewable energy and fuel. Also, greenhouse gas emissions resulting from the decomposition of organic wastes in landfills have been identified as a significant source of emissions contributing to climate change. Reducing the amount of organic materials sent to landfills and increasing the production of compost and mulch are part of the AB 32 (California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006) Scoping Plan.
AB 32 Implementation Dates/Thresholds
The law phases in the requirements for businesses, including multifamily residential dwellings that consist of five or more units,* over time based on the amount and type of waste the business produces on a weekly basis, with full implementation realized in 2019. Additionally, the law contains a 2020 trigger that will increase the scope of affected businesses if waste reduction targets are not met. Two trigger dates took place during 2016 (January 1: “Local jurisdictions shall have an organic waste recycling program in place.” and April 1: “Businesses that generate 8 cubic yards of organic waste per week shall arrange for organic waste recycling services.”
As 2017 approaches, facility management teams in California are facing the following implementation dates:
- January 1, 2017: Businesses that generate 4 cubic yards of organic waste per week shall arrange for organic waste recycling services.
- August 1, 2017 and ongoing: Jurisdictions shall provide information about their organic waste recycling program implementation in the annual report submitted to CalRecycle. (See above for description of information to be provided.)
- Fall 2018: After receipt of the 2016 annual reports submitted on August 1, 2017, CalRecycle shall conduct its formal review of those jurisdictions that are on a two-year review cycle.
- January 1, 2019: Businesses that generate 4 cubic yards or more of commercial solid waste per week shall arrange for organic waste recycling services.
- Fall 2020: After receipt of the 2019 annual reports submitted on August 1, 2020, CalRecycle shall conduct its formal review of all jurisdictions.
- Summer/Fall 2021: If CalRecycle determines that the statewide disposal of organic waste in 2020 has not been reduced by 50% of the level of disposal during 2014, the organic recycling requirements on businesses will expand to cover businesses that generate 2 cubic yards or more of commercial solid waste per week. Additionally, certain exemptions may no longer be available if this target is not met.
Meanwhile, on the East Coast…
The state of New Jersey is diving further into organic waste recycling. In October 2016, Cole Rosengren of WasteDive reported on a bill approved by New Jersey Senate’s Environment and Energy Committee. S-771 would require large commercial establishments such as distribution warehouses, conference centers, hospitals, casinos, retail stores and restaurants to divert organic waste for recycling.
The bill refers to requiring “large food waste generators to separate and recycle food waste… .” Rosengren notes that establishments which generate an average projected volume of 104 tons or more of waste would start in 2019 and generators of 52 tons or more per year would start in 2022.