Many individuals monitor school waste, including school district administrators concerned about increases in solid waste disposal costs, recycling-conscious teachers and students, city/county recycling coordinators working with a local school district. In most cases, school recycling is a state requirement. Setting up or improving an existing school waste reduction program can reduce costs and litter, improve the environment, and combat climate change.
California Solid Waste and Recycling Laws Affecting Schools and Local Education Agencies
CalRecycle provides the following information about California solid waste and recycling laws and offers resources to help schools and school districts meet recycling requirements.
The Mandatory Commercial Recycling (MCR) law went into effect in June 2012 and requires public entities that generate a certain threshold of solid waste per week to reuse, recycle, compost, or otherwise divert solid waste from disposal.
Mandatory Organic Recycling (MORe) requires regulated entities to implement an organic waste recycling program to divert food waste, green waste, landscape and pruning waste, nonhazardous wood waste, and food-soiled paper waste that is mixed in with food waste.
Effective on July 1, 2020, AB 827 supports AB 341 and AB 1826 covered generators by making recycling and organic recycling containers available to customers. Wherever recycling or organic waste is generated, a school must provide an appropriate container adjacent to the solid waste container to capture and divert recycling and organic waste. Containers must be easily accessible, visible, and clearly labeled. CalRecycle has customizable labels available for download.
Effective on January 1, 2022, schools and local education agencies will be required to prevent, reduce the generation of, and recycle organic waste. Additionally, effective on January 1, 2024, schools and local education agencies with an on-site food facility will be required to recover edible food. Information on these requirements can be found on the Short-Lived Climate Pollutants (SLCP): Organic Waste Methane Emissions Reductions website for schools and local education agencies.
Other Related School Recycling & Sustainability Laws
Public Resources Code, sections 42620-42622 requires CalRecycle to provide assistance to school districts in establishing and implementing source reduction and recycling programs, including:
- A survey of school districts on their level of program implementation
- Development of a model waste reduction program
- Training and ongoing technical and informational assistance
- Information on programs for other states and institutions
Additionally, California Education Code, sections 32370-32376, encourages each school district to establish and maintain a paper recycling program in all classrooms, administrative offices, and other areas owned or leased by the school district. These sections also encourage school districts to:
- Purchase recycled paper
- Purchase the paper with the highest percentage of postconsumer waste
- Revise procurement specifications to eliminate discrimination against recycled paper and to give preference to the purchase of recycled paper
- Eliminate the purchase of paper and paper products, which are deemed potential contaminants of the educational agency’s paper recycling program
For questions or to request assistance in setting up a districtwide waste reduction program, please contact your CalRecycle regional local assistance representative.