As part of the Organics Policy Roadmap, this Organics Toolbox explores how local jurisdictions in California are implementing policies related to compost and mulch use. This toolbox is a clearinghouse and will serve as a collection of model tools from cities throughout the state, CalRecycle, and other sources. We will continue to place new information on this site as it becomes available.

What’s Included in this Toolbox?

Examples include benefits of compost use, case studies, compost guidelines and specifications, contract mechanisms, directories, environmentally preferable purchases and practices policies, fees, marketing plans, model ordinances, and resources. To navigate this toolbox, use the links on the menu below.

Benefits of Compost Use

Case Studies

  • Burbank (a CalRecycle publication). The City of Burbank partnered with its hauling company and a grower to implement a program for green material and food scraps.
  • Oakland. The City of Oakland implemented green building and bay-friendly landscaping in a LEED-Platinum certified office remodel.
  • Ukiah. Determines the effects of biodynamic preparations on soil, wine grapes, and compost quality on a vineyard.

Compost Guidelines/Specifications

  • Bay-Friendly Landscape Guidelines. Presented as a public service by the Alameda County Waste Management and Recycling Board, these guidelines provide a whole systems approach to the design, construction, and maintenance of landscapes to support the integrity of a San Francisco Bay Area watershed.
  • Caltrans Compost Specifications. The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) website has resources for project managers including specifications, publications, compost calculators, and event schedules.
  • Guidelines for Writing Compost or Mulch Procurement Specification. These CalRecycle guidelines provide assistance to State and local agency representatives in developing specifications for purchasing compost or mulch.


Economic Incentives

  • Economic Incentives. A list of various websites with economic incentive information provided by CalRecycle and other organizations.

Environmentally Preferable Purchases (EPP) and Practices Policy

  • Alameda County Waste Management Authority
    • EPP Model Policy and Guidelines. Alameda County’s policy was adopted to conserve natural resources and increase the use and availability of environmentally preferable products that protect the environment.
    • EPP Implementation Guidance. A supplement to the EPP Model Policy with additional guidance on writing specifications.
  • CalRecycle Programs
  • California Department of General Services (DGS). The department provides the Environmentally Preferable Purchasing Best Practices Manual to assist purchasing officials and specification writers with practicing environmentally preferable purchasing.
  • CalRecyle's Commercial Climate Calculator was developed as part of the Cost Study on Commercial Recycling. This calculator is designed for virtually any California business or multifamily complex to assess the financial, climate change, and waste reduction/environmental benefits of reducing and recycling their discarded materials.
  • King County (Seattle, Washington). King County provides sample contract specifications for compost and landscape mulch, and information on a variety of products.
  • Los Angeles County. Los Angeles County’s EPP Policy establishes the framework for an environmentally based purchasing program.
  • Mandatory Commercial Recycling was one of the measures adopted in the Assembly Bill 32 Scoping Plan by the California Air Resources Board pursuant to the California Global Warming Solutions Act (Chapter 488, Statutes of 2006). The Mandatory Commercial Recycling Measure focuses on increased commercial waste diversion as a method to reduce GHG emissions.
  • Mandatory Commercial Organics Recycling requires 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 requires 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.
  • San Jose. City of San Jose’s EPP policies that protect the environment through sustainable purchasing choices.
  • The California Green Business Program is a network of local governments working with the California Department of Substances Control to help companies make the switch to green business practices.
  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA). The U.S. EPA's website assists executive agencies in EPP purchasing and services. This Web site has a glossary, Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ), and a suite of tools including a database which lists more than 600 environmentally preferred products and services.


  • Alameda County. Measure D Landfill Surcharge--A county waste reduction and recycling initiative.
  • San Jose. City of San Jose uses fees to create incentives to recycle and compost. The document is part of the city’s Zero Waste Strategic Plan and provides a summary of the current fees, as well as a review of options being considered as diversion increases in order to replace revenues that are currently based on tonnage landfilled.


Model Ordinances

  • Alameda County. An ordinance prohibiting the disposal of certain recyclable and compostable materials from its landfills.
  • San Diego. The City of San Diego’s mandatory recycling ordinance prohibits mixing compostable organic materials and specific recyclables (e.g., paper, corrugated cardboard, appliances etc.) with refuse, prior to refuse collection. The Miramar Greenery accepts green and food materials and produces mulch and compost that are sold commercially and are available to the public.
  • San Francisco’s Mandatory Recycling and Composting Ordinance. Requires all residents and businesses to separate recyclable, compostable and waste material. Residents and businesses are required to subscribe to adequate trash, recycling and composting service. Residents are allowed to place food waste in their green waste bins. The mixed organic materials are hauled to Recology composting sites in Solano and Stanislaus counties.
  • San Jose. An ordinance that offers incentives for non-Alternative Daily Cover diversion.
  • Santa Cruz County. Enacted a landfill ban in 2005 to save space in the Buena Vista landfill and recover valuable materials. The ordinance prohibits the disposal of a wide variety of materials at the County’s landfill or transfer station. The County provides recycling options for all banned materials at these sites. Recyclable materials banned from disposal include:
    • Yard waste and wood waste
    • Tires
    • Major appliances and mattresses
    • All types of paper and cardboard
    • Rigid plastic containers of resins 1-7
    • Concrete, asphalt, tile and gypsum
    • Electronics, and
    • Metal cans and scrap metal
  • Sonoma County. Has enacted a landfill ban for specified recyclable materials. Fines of up to $500 and even jail time up to 6 months are possible for violations. Recycling options are available at the landfill and transfer stations for all specified materials. Sonoma County code Section 22-7A states that no person shall dispose of any of the following recyclable materials at any disposal area within Sonoma County, including:
    • Yard debris or wood debris
    • Major appliances
    • Corrugated cardboard
    • Electronics
    • Scrap metal, and
    • Tires
  • The Department of Water Resources (DWR). The DWR’s Model Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance mandating that local agencies, not later Jan. 1, 2010, must adopt the revised model ordinance or equivalent or it will be automatically adopted by statute. Compost has been included, if used as a mulch, for water conservation.


  • Association of Compost Producers (ACP). The ACP is a nonprofit organization whose members are public agencies and private companies involved in the production and marketing of compost. The association helps members work together to improve the quality of soil in gardens, landscaping, and farming.
  • BioCycle. An industry leader working to turn organic residuals--woody materials, yard trimmings, municipal solid waste, food residuals, biosolids, manure, and other feedstock into value-added products.
  • California Organic Recycling Council (CORC). The CORC represents a coalition of organics recyclers, including collectors, processors, end users, and local governments. The CORC supports the development of an organics infrastructure for increasing sustainable and diverse end markets, through policy leadership and education.
  • Compostable Materials Management. CalRecycle offers information on regulatory requirements to local enforcement agencies, operators, and other stakeholders and interested parties. Information on permitting, enforcement, and operational challenges, such as odor may be found on these Web pages.
  • Connecticut – Organics Recycling Mandate. Connecticut became the first state to mandate food scraps generated by large-scale generators be recycled when it first passed Public Act 11-217 in 2011.
  • Cornell Waste Management Institute (CWMI). A program in the Department of Crop and Soil Sciences in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. The CWMI serves the public through research, outreach, training, and technical assistance with a focus on organic residuals.
  • Economic Incentives. A list of various websites with economic incentive information provided by CalRecycle and other organizations.
  • Massachusetts Organic Material Ban. Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) introduced its first bans on landfilling and combustion of easy-to-recycle and toxic materials. Additional "waste bans" have been phased in over time. Final Amendments to 310 CMR Regulations Organic Material Ban.
  • Massachusetts RecyclingWorks. Local Health Department Guidance for Commercial Food Waste Separation.
  • San Jose. The City of San Jose has one of the most successful yard trimmings collection programs in California. Commercial agriculture and landscaping are natural markets for recycled organic materials such as green soil amendment, wood chips, and finished compost.
  • Soils for Salmon Resources (Washington State). Information about the uses and benefits of Best Management Practices to preserve topsoil, reduce compaction, and amend disturbed soils with compost to restore soil health.
  • United States Composting Council (USCC). The USCC supports many programs, including the Seal of Testing Assurance, the Test Methods for the Examination of Composting and Compost, the Compost Analysis Proficiency Program, International Compost Awareness Week, and the Biodegradable Logo project.
  • Vermont's Universal Recycling Laws to take effect July 1, 2014. Universal Recycling (Act 148) is new Vermont solid waste legislation that focuses on recyclables and organics. It will provide convenience and choices for solid waste generators, including individuals, and will lead to more consistent services throughout the state.

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