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In 2021, California passed a law requiring Californians to separate organic, or “green,” waste, from other trash and recycling. The purpose of this law is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and keep organic waste, such as food waste, out of landfills. While this law took effect in 2022, many Californians are unfamiliar with the law’s requirements. We’re here to help you understand this law.

What Does the Law Say?

All businesses and residents of California are now required to separate their waste. Residents must separate out organic waste and recyclable materials from other trash. This requirement applies to businesses, multifamily housing complexes such as apartment buildings, and single-family residences. What this law essentially requires is that people compost.

Multifamily complexes must provide a cart for tenants to dispose of organic waste, such as food waste or landscaping debris, such as leaves or cut grass. The owners of such housing complexes are supposed to give their tenants information on recycling and composting each year, and when a new tenant moves in or an old tenant moves out. Your city, or county, is required to offer organic waste collection to you.

Why Should You Care?

You should care about California’s composting law because starting in 2024, your city or county depending on where you live, could impose fines for not complying with the law. Fines can also be imposed on those who contaminate their organic waste with things that cannot be composted. Penalties can range from as low as $50 to $100 for a first offense, and get as high as $500 for a second or third offense.

What Can be Composted?

Food scraps can be composted. This includes, but isn’t limited to, fruits, vegetables, meat and fish, bones, eggshells, grains, bread, coffee grounds, and even tea leaves. Paper towels and cardboard are also compostable. Things like greasy pizza boxes, napkins, tea bags, and unwaxed paper plates are also compostable. In addition to kitchen waste, yard waste can be composted. Yard waste includes leaves, lawn clippings, weeds, flowers, straw, small branches, and clippings from shrubs and trees.

There are many things that cannot be composted. Things that cannot be composted include utensils, bags, cups, plates, or containers that are labeled compostable or bio-degradable. While this may seem counter-intuitive, this is because these items take too long to break down. As such, these items belong in a landfill and should go in your trash. For the full list of items that can and cannot be composted, check out this website..

Learn More About Composting

If you want to learn more about composting, there are a number of resources available to Contra Costa County Residents. Depending on where you live, you may be able to get a reduced price composting bin. Click here to learn more about composting and how to get a reduced price composting bin.

To learn more about the law, click here..