Exempt and Excluded Sites

This page provides information and resources for facilities that qualify for an exemption from the requirements of a solid waste facility permit (SWFP) and for operations that qualify for the excluded tier. This page also provides information on identifying activities that are not subject to CalRecycle’s regulations.


Although the terms “exempt” and “excluded” appear synonymous, they have very different regulatory implications. An “excluded activity” is a regulatory tier that is specifically defined in Title 14 of the California Code of Regulations (CCR).  A facility “exemption” is determined by the Local Enforcement Agency (LEA) following a public hearing process described in CCR Title 27. 

The following table illustrates the major differences and similarities between permit exemptions, exclusions, and activities not subject to CalRecycle’s regulations:

 Exempt from SWFPExcluded from Regulatory Permit TiersNot Subject to Regulation
AuthorityDescribed in Title 27. Existed prior to the
regulatory tiers as a subset of a full permit. Pertains
to facilities that otherwise qualify for a full SWFP
Described in Title 14. The "lowest" of the five permit tiers.
Various packages of tiered regulations specifically exclude certain
operations from the requirements of the permit tiers.
Described in statute, regulations, definitions, and/or "scope and
Regulatory StatusExempt from the requirements of a permit but not necessarily other
One of the "regulatory tiers" but not a permit.Not a permit or a regulatory tier.
ApplicationNo application, operator submits Report of Facility Information (RFI) to LEA.No application, RFI, or notification required.No LEA oversight
LEA Processing RequirementsLEA makes site specific findings, holds public hearing, and determines that facility is exempt from obtaining SWFP.Each type of exclusion is specifically defined in the regulations that apply
to each type of activity or operation.
No LEA oversight.
Inspection FrequencyLEA required to inspect at least quarterly.LEA can inspect to make sure site does not qualify for higher tier.LEA can inspect to determine if  these standards apply.
Operating StandardsMust comply with all applicable State Minimum Standards (SMS).SMS do not apply.SMS do not apply.
Note: Other local, State, or federal agencies may also have regulatory authority over solid waste facilities, operations, and activities. All statutory citations refer to the California Code of Regulations (CCR) unless otherwise indicated.

Exempt from the Requirements of a Permit

An “exemption” is not one of the permit tiers, but is a subset of a full solid waste facility permit. The seven classifications of solid waste facilities that may be exempted from a full permit are described in Title 27, Section 21565(b).

Note: Only these seven exemption classifications may qualify for the permit exemption.

  1. Facilities or portions thereof doing research funded primarily by government grants;
  2. Drilling mud disposal sumps for short-term use (less than one year) if significant quantities of hazardous or toxic materials are not present in the mud, fluids and cuttings from drilling and associated operations.
  3. Unclassified waste management units as defined by the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB), except as otherwise provided in CCR, Title 14, Division 7, Chapter 3.0, Article 5.95.
  4. Farm or ranch disposal sites for one- or two-family use.
  5. Resource Recovery facilities intended only for demonstration purposes and not for profit.
  6. Disposal sites to be used exclusively for one of the following: for spreading of either cannery wastes or oily wastes, mine tailings, ashes and residues, agricultural wastes, street sweepings, dirt from excavations, slag if disposed of on site, or waste water treatment sludge if disposed of on site or to specified agricultural lands.
  7. Evaporation ponds for disposing of salts from oil and geothermal drilling operations.

Application Processing for Exempt Facilities

The application and processing requirements are described in Title 27:

An applicant must file with the LEA information containing applicable sections of a Report of Facility Information/Joint Technical Document (RFI/JTD) to establish that an exemption should be granted.

Public Hearing

After a public hearing the EA may grant an exemption from the requirement that the operator of a facility or operation obtain a permit if the facility falls within one of the above classifications and all of the following findings are made:

  1. The exemption is not against the public interest,
  2. The quantity of solid wastes is insignificant, and
  3. The nature of the solid wastes poses no significant threat to health, safety, or the environment.

Issuance and Revisions

Once an operator is granted the exemption, any proposed changes in design and operation require submittal of a new application for exemption. If the LEA can still make the three findings above, then the approval must again be made at a public hearing. If the LEA can not make the findings, then the LEA may require an application for a permit.

Where the EA has reason to believe that circumstances have changed and the findings can no longer be supported, the LEA may, after holding a public hearing, rescind the exemption.

All exemptions and rescissions of exemptions shall be forwarded to CalRecycle within seven days after the decision is issued.

Examples of Exempt Facilities

Examples of exempt solid waste facilities are available at CalRecycle’s Solid Waste Information System (SWIS). Most examples are either inert land reclamation or biosolids land-spreading sites.

Excluded Sites and Operations

A site or operation that is “excluded” is governed by the regulatory tier requirements. Until CalRecycle’s tiered regulatory structure became effective in 1994, there was a “one-size-fits-all” permit applied to all facilities. There are now five tiers, including the excluded tier:

  • Full
  • Standardized
  • Registration
  • Notification
  • Excluded

Also see the fact sheet, Who Needs a Permit.

Excluded Tier Requirements

The exclusion requirements for exclude solid waste handling activities are described in Title 14, California Code of Regulations, Section 18102.

No application or notification is required. LEAs have authority to inspect excluded sites to verify that they do not qualify for a higher tier and to take any appropriate enforcement action.

State Minimum Standards do not apply to excluded sites. However, local nuisance standards may still apply.

Types of Facilities that Qualify for the Excluded Tier

Specific requirements and definitions for excluded operations can be found in the section of the regulations associated with that type of operation or activity.

Scroll down the first column of the Permit Tier Placement Chart for a full list of operations that qualify for the excluded tier. For example:

  • Title 14, Section 17403.1 of the transfer/processing regulations lists 7 types of operations that are specifically excluded from regulations.
  • Title 14, Section 17855 of the compostable material regulations lists 9 types of activities that are specifically excluded from regulations.

Note: Nothing in these standards precludes the LEA or CalRecycle from inspecting an activity to determine if it is subject to these standards. Also, there may be other state or local agencies with some regulatory authority over these types of activities.

Activities Not Subject to Regulations

Some tiered regulation packages contain a list of specific types of activities which are clearly not within CalRecycle’s jurisdiction and are therefore “not subject to regulations”. These types of activities do not require a permit, an exemption, a notification, or an exclusion.

Specific references to the types of sites “not subject to regulations” are usually located in either the “scope and applicability” section of the regulations, the definitions, the state minimum standards, or in statute. For example:

  • Title 14, Section 17402.5(c) of the transfer/processing regulations defines 11 types of sites that are not subject to permitting regulations.
  • The first column of the chart located in Title 14, Section 17381.2 of the C&D/Inert Debris regulations contains a list of activities that are not subject to permitting requirements.
  • Title 14, Section 17896.6 of the in-vessel digestion regulations lists 6 types of activities that are specifically excluded from regulations.

Note: Nothing in these standards precludes the LEA or CalRecycle from inspecting an activity to determine if it is subject to these standards. Also, there may be other state or local agencies with some regulatory authority over these types of activities.


For more information contact: LEA Support Services, PermitTrainingAssistance@calrecycle.ca.gov