California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) 

Diversion Study Guide

What Is Diversion?

According to Public Resources Code (PRC) section 40124, “diversion” is generally defined as the reduction or elimination of the amount of solid waste from solid waste disposal.  Excluding a few mandated exceptions, the State’s definition of diversion is intentionally broad to allow each jurisdiction the flexibility to develop whatever information it needs to manage its programs and meet its diversion goals. However, for the purpose of this guide, “diversion” is defined as the quantity and type of solid waste material generated within a jurisdiction, which is not disposed at CalRecycle-permitted solid waste transformation and disposal facilities.

“Source reduction” (PRC section 40196) is defined as “any action, which causes a net reduction in the generation of solid waste.”

Source reduction includes, but is not limited to:

  • Reducing the use of non-recyclable materials
  • Replacing disposable materials and products with reusable materials and products
  • Reducing packaging, reducing the amount of yard wastes generated
  • Establishing the efficiency of the use of paper, cardboard, glass, metal, plastic, and other materials

Source reduction does not include steps taken after the material becomes solid waste, or actions that would impact air or water resources in lieu of land, including, but not limited to, transformation.

“Recycling” (PRC section 40180) is defined as the process of collecting, sorting, cleansing, treating, and reconstituting materials that would otherwise become solid waste.

Recycling also includes returning these materials to the economic mainstream in the form of raw material for new, reused, or reconstituted products, which meet the quality standards necessary to be used in the marketplace.

Recycling does not include transformation of materials.

What is a diversion study?

A diversion study is a methodology used to quantify a jurisdiction’s existing diversion efforts.  A diversion study is one component of an overall integrated waste management system.  A jurisdiction may use the results in support of a request to the CalRecycle for a new base year.  Data that must be captured in a diversion study includes:

  • Quantifying a community’s existing and current waste diversion tonnage––This process takes into account waste prevention (reducing, reusing), recycling, and composting programs for the non-residential and residential sectors.  Capturing the waste diversion tonnage requires gathering data from entities such as the waste/recycling hauler, recycling centers
    (buyback and drop-off), commercial and industrial businesses, government agencies, transfer stations, and landfills.
  • Quantifying a community’s disposal tonnage—the disposal data is available through the CalRecycle’s Disposal Reporting System (DRS).

There are many ways to conduct a diversion study, and this guide will assist you in considering different options.

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Last updated: March 19, 2000
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