Resources for Local Education Agencies: K-12 Public Schools and School Districts

Girl holding food compost

California is home to more than 10,000 K-12 schools and 6 million students. By managing recycling programs, local education agencies, which include K-12 public schools and school districts, play a vital role in fighting climate change and protecting the environment for future generations.

Local education agencies are required to maintain mandatory commercial recycling and organic recycling programs, including ensuring that schools have properly labeled recycling containers to collect bottles, cans, paper, cardboard, food waste, and other recyclable materials. SB 1383 expands the definition of organic waste to include food scraps, landscape and pruning waste, organic textiles and carpets, lumber, and wood.

Impacted Schools and Districts

SB 1383 applies to all local education agencies, including:

  • K-12 public and charter schools
  • School districts
  • County offices of education (that are not subject to the control of the city or county solid waste regulations)

Collection Requirements for Local Education Agencies

Local education agencies must recycle their organic waste either by:

  • Subscribing to a collection service that the jurisdiction provides OR
  • Contracting for collection services independently OR
  • Self-hauling organic waste to a specified composting facility, community composting program, or other collection activity or program.


Teacher handing out food to students

School staff and administrators must educate employees and students about organic waste prevention. Staff and administrators must periodically:

  • Inspect organic waste containers for contamination.
  • Inform employees if containers are contaminated.
  • Instruct employees on how to properly sort material into the correct containers.

Having clear signage and container labeling encourages proper sorting and minimizes contamination. See Containers for container color and labeling requirements.


School staff and administrators must provide containers to collect organic waste and recyclables in all areas where disposal containers are provided, except in restrooms. However, a school is not required to provide an internal collection container if a specific material type is not generated in a particular room (e.g., food waste in a classroom).

Containers must conform to the proper color or labeling requirements:

  • School staff may use existing internal organics collection containers until they are no longer functional or until January 1, 2036, whichever comes first, as long as they are the correct color.
  • Alternatively, school staff may adhere labels to existing internal containers that identify accepted and prohibited materials.

Waivers from Organic Waste Collection Requirements

CalRecycle may waive a local education agency’s obligation to comply with some or all of the organic waste collection service requirements if they meet specific exceptions [see 14 CCR Section 18986.3(a)]. Please see our SB 1383 Waivers webpage to determine if your local education agency meets the criteria to apply for a waiver and to learn about the waiver process.

Edible Food Recovery ProgramFood basket for students

Starting January 1, 2024, local education agencies with an on-site food facility (like a school cafeteria) will be required to donate all edible food to a food recovery organization that they would otherwise throw away. Every year, millions of pounds of food that could be eaten is thrown away and sent to a landfill, including from school cafeterias. This new requirement will benefit local communities by diverting food to hungry Californians, including the 1 in 5 children in the state who do not have enough to eat.

Schools and districts don’t have to wait until 2024 to start a food recovery program. You can start now by donating food to local food banks, food pantries, and other food recovery organizations and services.


Local education agencies with an on-site food facility shall arrange to recover the maximum amount of edible food that would otherwise by disposed by:

  • Contracting with food recovery organizations or services that will collect their edible food or self-hauling edible food to a food recovery organization.
  • Having a formal agreement in place with a food recovery organization or food recovery service.
    • This could be any type of binding agreement, including a memorandum of understanding.
    • CalRecycle has provided a Model Edible Food Recovery agreement for local education agencies to use when working with a food recovery organization or service.
  • Maintaining records, including:
    • A list of each food recovery service or organization that collects or receives the local education agency’s edible food, including:
      • Contact information for the service or organization.
      • The types of food that will be collected by or self-hauled to the service or organizations.
      • The established frequency that food will be collected or self-hauled.
      • The quantity of food collected or self-hauled to a service or organization for food recovery (measured in pounds recovered per month).
    • A copy of contracts or written agreements between the local education agency and food recovery services or organizations.
Child holding fresh produce

Food Recovery

Schools and local education agencies with an on-site food facility are required to recover edible food to distribute to people in need.

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Student picking food from basket

School Cafeterias

School district school nutrition directors play an important role in implementing strategies to reduce organic waste and recover edible food.

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Children and teacher holding recycle box

Model School Programs

Learn from schools that have comprehensive recycling and organic recovery programs

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Students with raised hands sitting in a classroom

Frequently Asked Questions

Browse frequently asked questions submitted by schools and other local education agencies.

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Educational Posters

Education and Outreach

Consistent and properly labeled containers will help employees and students contribute to the proper sorting and recovery of organic waste and recyclables.

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Big blue and binnie need your help

Monitor Compliance and Conduct Enforcement

Jurisdictions are required to educate their constituents about new organics recycling requirements.

Coming Soon

For more information contact: Short-Lived Climate Pollutants (SLCP), Organic Waste Methane Emissions Reductions,