California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) 

Local Government Central

California's 2010 Per Capita Disposal Rate


In 2010, California's statewide disposal was 30.4 million tons and population was 37.2 million residents. This resulted in a per resident disposal rate of 4.5 pounds/resident/day calculated using SB 1016's measurement system. This rate remained unchanged from 2009.

Almost all (99 percent) of California’s 30.4 million tons of disposal were landfilled in California, while approximately 1 percent was exported to landfills out of state. An additional 0.8 million tons were transformed at three permitted waste-to energy plants in California, but not included in the disposal rate estimate because of provisions in the law that allow limited diversion credit for transformation.

Demographic Trends

California's disposal of 30.4 million tons in 2010 is a slight decline of 0.7 million tons from 2009. However, it is 13.6 million tons less than the high of 44 million tons in 1989, and 12.1 million tons less than the second highest amount of 42.5 million tons recently recorded in 2005. In 2010, the per employee disposal rate reached a historic low of 11.7 pounds per employee per day, per resident “diversion rate equivalent” was 65 percent, and the per employee “diversion rate equivalent” was 63 percent.

The continuing economic downturn and increased diversion program implementation likely share responsibility for the small drop in disposal from 2009 to 2010. CalRecycle examined three readily available economic indicators to gauge the economy’s impact on disposal. Employment is an indicator of production and services, personal income is an indicator of spending and consumption, and housing permits are an indicator of construction activity. In 2010, these indicators show a leveling out after steep declines posted in 2009. Employment only declined slightly (approximately 1 percent) in 2010. Personal income in California grew by 2.5 percent from 2009 to 2010 compared to a 2.3 percent drop between 2008 and 2009. Housing permits (driven by large year-end increases in multi-family housing permits) rose by 23 percent from 2009 to 2010. While this increase appears large, the 2010 level is only one-third of the historic trend. The increase in end-of-year multi-family permits should lead to increased disposal in subsequent years, but probably did not affect 2010 disposal.

The federal census provides new population estimates benchmarks every 10 years (e.g. in 2010). During the years between the benchmarks the California Department of Finance provides annual estimates of California’s population. The 2010 preliminary estimate (37.2 million) for California’s population shows approximately 1.1 million fewer residents than in 2009 (38.3 million). This 2.8 percent difference is due to new preliminary population benchmark set by the 2010 federal census. Because they use different benchmarks, the 2009 and 2010 population estimates are not strictly comparable.

In the future, we expect the California economy will rebound and solid waste generation will increase as people find work, build more, produce more, and buy more. When that occurs statewide disposal will likely increase, particularly if CalRecycle’s stakeholders in local government and the solid waste industry reduce/eliminate important diversion programs or fail to plan for the increased flows of materials.

Although jurisdictions are facing severe budgetary problems, now is the time to plan for, and prepare to implement, diversion programs to handle these materials. If these increased flows of materials are not planned for, they may end up in landfills rather than being recycled back into the economy. CalRecycle will continue to support innovative and substantial diversion efforts such as mandatory commercial recycling, improved green building standards, and the universal adoption of C&D ordinances. These programs divert materials and reduce disposal.

Previous Years' Statewide Disposal Rates

Last updated: June 19, 2012
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