Bringing the Opportunity to Recycle to Everyone

Update: Governor Brown signed AB 341, which will expand recycling to all apartment buildings with 5 or more units and businesses that generate more than 4 cubic yards of waste a week.

California may have reached its goal of a 50 percent diversion rate, but many Californians still do not have access to recycling in their homes and at work. Since the passage of California’s landmark waste reduction and recycling law, AB 939, local governments’ diversion efforts have focused on recycling programs targeted at single family residences. As a result, the waste reduction potential of the commercial sector has been largely untapped. For instance, while the state as a whole diverts over 54% of its waste from landfills, large office buildings divert only 7% of their waste. These large office buildings have readily recyclable waste streams, and more than half of the materials disposed consist of paper and cardboard.

Moreover, of the 37 million residents of California, 7.1 million live in a multifamily dwelling (apartments), yet only 40 percent have access to a convenient recycling program. Even in single family homes, no more than 70 percent have access to curbside recycling. Apartments or multifamily dwellings account for 8 percent (3.3 million tons) of the disposed waste stream in California, but only 15% of this waste is actually diverted from landfills.

Bringing the commercial and multifamily waste streams in line with the current diversion rates for single family homes would greatly help local governments reach their waste diversion goals, as well as reduce green house gas emissions from California landfills.

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