California’s Solid Waste Mandates
Assembly Bill 939 (Sher, Chapter 1095, Statutes of 1989) requires every California city and county to divert 50 percent of its waste from landfills by the year 2000. Current law also requires State agencies to institute waste reduction and buy recycled activities to assist local governments in this effort. With less than a year remaining to attain the solid waste diversion goals of AB 939, California has reached a commendable statewide 33 percent waste diversion rate. (Note: As of 2000, the statewide rate was at 42 percent.)

Changes to Reporting Requirements for DAAs Starting January 1, 2015 
As of January 1, 2015 pursuant to AB 2490 (Eggman, Chapter 342, Statutes of 2014) Sections 10 and 15, California district agricultural associations (DAA) are excluded from the definition of “state agency” for purposes of those provisions (Food and Agricultural Code Section 4061(a) and PRC Section 42926 (d)). As such, DAAs are no longer required to submit an annual state agency waste management report to CalRecycle’s State Agency Reporting Center (SARC) by May 1 or a State Agency Buy Recycled Campaign report (SABRC) by March 1 of each year for “Calendar Year” reporters or October 31 for “Fiscal Year” reporters. A full explanation of AB 2490 changes for DAAs can be found here.

While AB 2490 exempts DAAs from reporting requirements, CalRecycle still requires each DAA to maintain and monitor its programs and waste diversion activities to ensure adherence to the diversion requirements for State entities under AB 75 (Strom-Martin, Chapter 764, Statutes of 1999), AB 341 (Chesbro, Chapter 476, Statutes of 2011), SB 1016 (Wiggins, Chapter 343, Statutes of 2008), PCC 12153-12217, and PRC 42920-42926. See State Agency Laws and Regulations for more information on diversion and recycled content purchasing requirements.

The Integrated Waste Management Hierarchy
To most efficiently achieve the waste reduction goals of AB 939, the legislature established a hierarchy of waste reduction practices: (1) waste prevention (also referred to as source reduction), (2) recycling and composting, (3) environmentally safe transformation and land disposal. Waste prevention is at the top of this hierarchy because when resources are used efficiently, less waste is created. If waste is not created, it does not need to be recycled or disposed. Waste prevention and reuse activities have been highlighted in this document as the most effective way to save money and resources in State government. However, a comprehensive and integrated approach to waste reduction is suggested including waste prevention, reuse, recycling collection, composting, and recycled-content product procurement activities.

State Government’s Role in Reducing Waste
Current law places state waste diversion responsibility on local government. As citizens, State employees have the responsibility to participate and contribute to the diversion activities of the communities in which they live and work. Equally, each State agency has the responsibility to divert waste to further the waste diversion goals of the jurisdiction or regions of the state in which the agency does business. Local governments are subject to fines of up to $10,000 per day if the waste diversion goals are not met. These penalties will ultimately affect all citizens if the State does not do its part in meeting the mandates.

Beyond responsibilities at the local level, the State of California should lead the way in exemplary waste reduction efforts. Although state government is diverse, opportunities exist in each agency to reduce waste. Implementing waste prevention, reuse, recycling, and buying recycled activities within each state agency will provide leadership, responsibility and economic and environmental benefits to the state, its people, business community, and government.

This guidance document provides California State agencies, offices, departments, divisions, boards, commissions, and facilities with a framework to develop and implement waste reduction and recycled-content product procurement policies and programs to:

    • Demonstrate State government leadership and responsibility toward meeting the state’s solid waste goals.
    • Show environmental leadership in conserving natural resources.
    • Maximize budget resources through the efficient use of all resources.
    • Further compliance with laws requiring state agency waste reduction and buy recycled activities.

Benefits of Waste Reduction

Produces More Efficient Operations and Reduces Costs
The traditional use of the word “waste” means inefficient use of resources. Waste reduction is the efficient use of all resources. It begins with examining how business is conducted, including how materials are used, why individual business processes are performed, and what products are purchased. Efficient operations will minimize waste in materials, labor, and money. Specific benefits to an agency employing a waste reduction program include reduction in energy, water and utility costs; reduction in raw material usage, storage and disposal costs; and decreased printing and postage costs. Waste reduction, in whatever its form, results in direct cost savings for the State of California.

Develops Markets for Recycled Materials
Purchasing recycled-content products creates markets for recycled materials, thereby supporting the manufacturing capacity for those products. The State can make a significant impact on the development of markets for recycled materials by each department meeting or exceeding the purchasing and reporting goals of Public Contract Code (PCC) Sections 12205 (State Agency Buy Recycled Campaign) in each of the 11 product categories (See Procurement: Buying Recycled).

Elements of a Self-Sustaining Waste Reduction Program

Improves an Organization’s Environmental Performance
A waste reduction program involves much more than placing recycling bins in common areas. In fact, the term “program” is misleading because it implies doing something “extra.” A self-sustaining waste reduction program is simply a better, more efficient way to do the same thing—conduct business. It is an ongoing process that continually improves an organization’s environmental performance. A comprehensive self-sustaining waste reduction program incorporates waste prevention, reuse, recycling, and recycled-content product procurement activities into everyday business. It originates with and is supported through management as an organizational policy. Employees are expected to be familiar with the policies and conduct business in that manner.

Includes Management Support and Employee Input
Management through policies and directives supports a successful waste reduction program; however, it also requires employee involvement. Staff responsible for performing the business functions is best able to identify wasteful practices and recommend areas for improvement. With upper management support, the improvements can be implemented and the waste reduction savings can be realized. This approach to encouraging employee input with the full support of upper management perpetuates employee “buy-in” and helps develop a sustainable waste reduction program.

Establishing Departmental Policies and Goals

Secure Organizational Support
Successful waste reduction requires commitment and support from both the upper management and staff level employees. The ultimate goal in recruiting organizational support is to make waste reduction part of the culture of the workplace. Waste reduction must become inherent to the way business is conducted.

Management must be clear on waste issues and see that the benefits of waste reduction outweigh the costs. It must be understood that it is not a problem to be fixed, it is an ongoing improvement to internal processes.

There are many support materials available through the CalRecycle to help document the benefits of waste reduction and to encourage top management support. See “Encouraging Top Management to Support Waste Reduction Efforts” on page 36 of Trainers’ Manual: Establishing a Waste Reduction Program at Work, and U.S. EPA WasteWise fact sheet, Steps for Implementing a Waste Prevention Program.

Know Your Waste Types
There are two methods to identify waste: waste assessment and analysis of business functions.

Waste Assessment. The traditional method of estimating waste generation, a waste assessment or audit, identifies materials and items that are major contributors to an organization’s waste stream. A waste assessment also provides a baseline for measuring the effects of waste reduction practices. Waste assessments can range from visual peeks into garbage cans to more formal retrieval, separation and weighing of disposed materials. For health and safety concerns in an office environment, visual assessments are recommended.

For more information on how to perform a waste assessment, see CalRecycle Pub. #500-94-004, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle—A Guide for California Business; CalRecycle Pub # 442-95-070, Establishing a Waste Reduction Program at Work; and U.S. EPA’s WasteWise fact sheet, Conducting a Waste Assessment.

Analysis of Business Functions.  Examining major business processes for opportunities to reduce materials, labor or time will produce greater overall cost savings, and reduce waste at the same time.

An example of a business function change that improved efficiency and reduced waste is a change the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) instituted for completion of their Form 700, Statement of Economic Interest. Formerly, hard copies (at 31 pages each) were provided to each State employee required to comply. Each State employee would complete and return the package to FPPC. A majority of the completions required only a signature on the front page, leaving the other 30 pages unused.

The FPPC now provides the Form 700 as a downloadable PDF (portable document format) file that agencies can provide electronically to their employees. Employees access the form electronically and print only pages of the form they need to return to the FPPC, i.e., the signature page, in most cases. By implementing the PDF version of the Form 700, the FPPC realizes savings in several areas: reductions in paper, postage, storage, and labor costs required to manage the volume of paper previously used as well as the reduction in paper waste.

An analysis of business functions to improve efficiencies and reduce waste should be ongoing in any State agency. As part of a waste reduction program, it can provide immediate and measurable results.

Set Waste Reduction Policies and Goals
Waste reduction policies reflect the visions and priorities of the department. Policies should be drafted early in the process of implementing a waste reduction program and formally adopted by the agency. Formal adoption by the agency demonstrates support and commitment. Once adopted, standard operating procedures, new employee orientations, etc. should highlight the waste reduction policies.

Waste reduction goals should be adopted based on the policies of the agency. This can be as part of the policies themselves, or as a separate document. The goals should be for a specified time period, such as one or two years. Setting realistic and measurable goals will ensure success.

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For more information contact: Recycling Coordinator,, or Buy Recycled Campaign,