Mandatory Commercial Recycling

Introduction and Background: California’s Mandatory Commercial Recycling Law

According to 2008 Statewide Waste Characterization data, the commercial sector generates nearly three fourths of the solid waste in California. Furthermore, much of the commercial sector waste disposed in landfills is readily recyclable. Increasing the recovery of recyclable materials will directly reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) emissions. In particular, recycled materials can reduce the GHG emissions from multiple phases of product production; including extraction of raw materials, preprocessing and manufacturing. A cobenefit of increased recycling is avoided methane emissions at landfills from the decomposition of organic materials. Use of composted organic materials also provides environmental benefits such as carbon storage in soils and reduced use of fertilizers, pesticides, and water.

Mandatory Commercial Recycling was one of the measures adopted in the Assembly Bill 32 Scoping Plan by the Air Resources Board (ARB) 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. It is designed to achieve a reduction in GHG emissions of 5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalents. To achieve the measure’s objective, an additional 2 to 3 million tons of materials annually will need to be recycled from the commercial sector by the year 2020 and beyond.

The regulation was adopted at CalRecycle’s January 17, 2012 Monthly Public Meeting. This regulation reflects the statutory provisions of AB 341 (Chesbro, Chapter 476, Statutes of 2011) and provides additional procedural clarifications. The regulation was approved by the Office of Administrative Law on May 7, 2012 and became effective immediately. On June 27, 2012 the Governor signed Senate Bill 1018 which included an amendment that requires a business that generates 4 cubic yards or more of commercial solid waste per week to arrange for recycling services.

Key Elements of the Law

AB 341 (Chesbro, Chapter 476, Statutes of 2011) sets forth the requirements of the statewide mandatory commercial recycling program. Below are basic descriptions:


To reduce GHG emissions by diverting commercial solid waste to recycling efforts and to expand the opportunity for additional recycling services and recycling manufacturing facilities in California.

Key Roles

  • Business Commercial Recycling Requirements. A business (includes public entities) that generates four cubic yards or more of commercial solid waste per week or is a multifamily residential dwelling of five units or more shall arrange for recycling services. Businesses can take one or any combination of the following in order to reuse, recycle, compost or otherwise divert solid waste from disposal:
    • Self-haul.
    • Subscribe to a hauler(s).
    • Arrange for the pickup of recyclable materials.
    • Subscribe to a recycling service that may include mixed waste processing that yields diversion results comparable to source separation.

    A property owner of a commercial business or multifamily residential dwelling may require tenants to source separate their recyclable materials to aid in compliance with this section.

    CalRecycle advises businesses to contact their “Annual Report Contacts” or “Jurisdiction Contacts” to find out how to recycle in their community and if there are any specific requirements in their community. Communities may have mandatory commercial recycling ordinances with different thresholds or more specific business recycling requirements than the state law. The local recycling coordinator also may have related business opportunities and/or resources to share.

    Recycling benefits identified by CalRecycle include:

    • Opportunities for businesses or multifamily complexes to save money.
    • Creating jobs in California by providing materials for recycling manufacturing facilities.
    • Reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
    • Keeping valuable materials out of landfills.
    • Creating a healthy environment for the community and future generations by recovering natural resources.
  • Local Government Requirements. Each jurisdiction shall implement a commercial solid waste recycling program that consists of education, outreach and monitoring of businesses, that is appropriate for that jurisdiction and is designed to divert commercial solid waste from businesses, whether or not the jurisdiction has met the requirements of PRC Section 41780.

    Each jurisdiction shall report the progress achieved in implementing its commercial recycling program, including education, outreach and monitoring, and if applicable, enforcement efforts and exemptions, by providing updates in its electronic annual report.

  • CalRecycle Review. CalRecycle will review each jurisdiction’s commercial recycling program that consists of education, outreach and monitoring. The following is an overview of the review process:
    • An evaluation as part of its formal AB 939 review, conducted every two or four years pursuant to PRC 41825, of each jurisdiction’s programs, which includes an annual jurisdiction site visit, review of the Electronic Annual Report, and other information a jurisdiction may deem relevant.
    • If the jurisdiction is found to not have made a good-faith effort in implementing its programs, possibly including its mandatory commercial recycling program, CalRecycle can place the jurisdiction on a compliance order as part of the AB 939 review, and if it fails to adequately meet the conditions of the compliance order, then CalRecycle could consider a penalty hearing.

Implementation Dates: Mandatory Commercial Recycling Program

  • July 1, 2012, Local Jurisdiction Commercial Recycling Program Implementation: On or after July, 1, 2012, each jurisdiction shall implement an education, outreach and monitoring program. Efforts may be phased in over time.
  • July 1, 2012, Commercial Recycling Requirements: On and after July 1, 2012, a business that generates four cubic yards or more of commercial solid waste per week or a multifamily residential dwelling of five units or more shall recycle.
  • August, 2013, Jurisdiction Annual Reports: Each jurisdiction shall report the progress achieved in implementing its commercial recycling program, including education, outreach and monitoring, and if applicable, enforcement efforts and exemptions, by providing updates in its electronic annual report required by Section 41821.
  • August, 2014, CalRecycle Review: First review of jurisdictions’ that are in a biennial review cycle on their implementation of the regulation, with reviews conducted every biennial or quadrennial review cycle thereafter depending on each jurisdiction’s review status.
  • July 1, 2020, Commercial Recycling Requirements (New): On or before July 1, 2020, AB341 and AB1826 covered businesses must provide organics and recycling containers at front-of-house to collect waste generated from products purchased and consumed on the premises (AB827, McCarty). These containers must be placed adjacent to trash and be visible, easily accessible, and clearly marked.

Related Projects

Recycling and Composting Emission Reduction FactorsARB staff developed life-cycle based greenhouse gas emission reduction factors for recycling and composting. These factors were designed to provide local government officials, planners and other interested stakeholders with a reliable estimate
for alternative waste management options. The methodology for their development can be found at:
Recycling Emission Reduction Factors and
Composting Emission Reduction Factor.
Cost Study on Commercial RecyclingAn important consideration in implementing commercial recycling is the cost of such programs. A Cost Study on Commercial Recycling documents the costs, savings, and net
costs associated with the expansion of commercial recycling in California. For more information, contact Janelle Auyeung.
ImplementationIn an effort to encourage expansion in commercial recycling programs and in partnership with CalRecycle, the
Institute for Local
has developed:

For more information, contact Kaoru Cruz, contract manager.

Recycling and Waste Management Infrastructure When implementing any diversion program, a critical consideration is the impact on the existing solid waste management and recycling infrastructure.

Program News...

  • Frequently Asked Questions regarding CalRecycle’s Mandatory Commercial Recycling regulation.
  • Mandatory Commercial Organics Recycling. Requirement that California local jurisdictions implement an organic waste recycling program to divert organic waste generated by businesses, including multifamily residential dwellings that consist of five or more units (Note that multifamily dwellings are not required to have a food waste diversion program).
  • Other Resources for Business and Industry. CalRecycle interacts with California’s business community on several fronts, with programs and services geared toward a variety of business groups. This page is continuously updated with resources to help businesses in California to make waste management and purchasing choices that minimize waste, maximize the purchase of recycled content products, increase the use of recycled content materials in manufacturing, and reduce environmental impacts of doing business.
  • Small Business Toolkit. A “one-stop-shop” of guidance and resources to help small businesses reduce greenhouse gas emissions and save money. This is just one of the many tools provided at to provide all Californians with the tools they need to voluntarily reduce global warming pollution.
  • The California Green Business Program is a network of local programs operated by counties and cities throughout California. Businesses that apply receive personal attention from the public agencies and utilities that serve them. The program is funded by grass-roots contributions from local government and utility partners to make it accessible to small to medium sized businesses in California. Certified Green Businesses exceed all environmental regulations, and implement specific practices to reduce pollution, save water and energy, and protect human health.

For more information contact: Commercial Recycling,

Recycling Service Concerns

Use this form to report if there is no recycling or composting service at your workplace or business.