California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) 

Innovations Case Studies

Summary: Commercial Innovations and Challentes

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Communities throughout California are now facing the requirement to reduce waste going to disposal by 50 percent. The California Integrated Waste Management Act of 1989 (AB 939, Sher, Chapter 1095, Statutes of 1989) mandated this requirement.

In nearly all these California communities, the proportion of the waste stream generated by industrial, commercial, and institutional sources (ICI) commonly exceeds half and often approaches two-thirds of the total waste stream. Clearly the reduction of these waste streams is high on the priority list of local planners.

As both the public and private sectors pay increasing attention to ICI waste reduction, communities have developed and implemented innovations to assist reduction efforts. Difficulties have also arisen, presenting challenges for the future.

Program Characteristics

Characterizing the ICI Waste Streams

It’s helpful to place ICI waste streams in a number of different categories for planning purposes. They are:

1. Single Unit Industrial (manufacturing). These sites will be large single-point sources of waste. Wastes generated at such sites generally fall into these categories:

  • Process wastes
  • Packaging
  • Office waste
  • Food and associated materials

2. Independent and Chain Unit Commercial Wholesale. These sites are commonly distribution warehouses. Although they may be very large, wastes generated may be relatively low if the operation is basically a transfer operation and/or if reusable shipping containers are used. Wastes generated at these sites generally include the following:

  • Packaging
  • Damaged packages
  • Office and food waste
  • Green landscaping waste

3. Independent and Chain Unit Commercial Retail & Service. This category represents a very wide range of activities and sizes of operation; for example, a large department store or chain store such as Target or Home Depot. On the other end are “mom and pop” stores. Smaller operations can be aggregated by prior design (e.g., shopping mall, office building, business park) or by post planning (e.g., downtown office corridor). These ICI wastes can be treated as single-point sources for planning purposes. Wastes generated at these sites generally include the following:

  • Packaging
  • Damaged packages
  • Office and food waste
  • Green landscaping waste

4. Construction, Renovation, and Demolition. This waste category is very significant in planning waste reduction but differs from the other categories in important ways.  It should be noted that these activities occur from time to time at all the other category sites as well. However, because of their unique nature, all such activities will be characterized here regardless of where they take place.  This will include residential sites as well, since these activities are subsumed under the handling of ICI wastes.

  • Demolition: This will vary with the age and type of the structure to be demolished. Some of these materials may include concrete, wood, ceramic fixtures, glass, plastic siding, and fixtures. Depending upon the age, contamination by asbestos, lead paint, and other toxic and hazardous material may be present to some degree.
  • Renovation: This activity is usually a combination of demolition and construction; therefore, materials generated will not differ from the above.

5. Institutional. This includes a wide range of public and quasi-public institutions such as government office buildings, schools, public hospitals, clinics, penal institutions, libraries, parks, zoos, and museums.

A Brief Consideration of ICI Material Markets

ICI waste reduction planning cannot be effective without an understanding and awareness of local market conditions, especially as it relates to materials that cannot be reduced or reused on site. In this regard, most California communities have been fortunate in the past in having significant market options for both domestic and export, particularly to the Pacific Rim and Latin America.

Selected Government Programs for Commercial Waste Reduction

California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle)-Program Elements:

King County, Washington, Department of Natural Resources Solid Waste Division-Program Elements:

  • Business Assistance Team
  • Recycled content paper for less
  • Small business co-ops
  • Reusable building material exchange

Alameda County Waste Management Authority and Recycling Board (ACWMA). The ACWMA is a joint powers agency (JPA). The ACWMA operates in conjunction with the Alameda County Source Reduction and Recycling Board, which was created through the passage of Ballot Measure D in 1990.  Both are funded by landfill surcharges. The ACWMA operates a wide range of programs related to waste reduction of the ICI waste stream. They include:

  • Alameda County Source Reduction and Recycling Board Grant Program
  • Alameda County Source Reduction and Recycling Board Revolving Loan Fund (RLF). This fund was approved and established in 1993 to provide gap financing.
  • The StopWa$te Partnership

Formally, the Comprehensive Environmental Assessment Program is a part of the Agency’s Business and Public Agency Services. It provides environmental performance assessment and improvement services focusing on source reduction, recycling, energy and water conservation, wastewater discharge reduction, and efficient use of materials. Companies with more than 75 employees are primarily targeted.

Tips for Success

  • If not already in place, determine the feasibility of placing a surcharge on landfilled waste to fund waste reduction efforts. Use the ACWMA example of what can be accomplished with adequate funding.
  • Examine the possibility of developing a business coalition to work with local government. Use the Silicon Valley Manufacturing Group (SVMG) as an example.
  • Make maximum use of other government and organization Web sites for technical assistance that may be available to you. Start with the CalRecycle Web site at and links to related pages.

Credits and Disclaimer

Pursuant to contract (IWM-C8028) with the University of California at Santa Cruz for a series of 24 studies and summaries, EMS (Oakland, California) researched and wrote this summary for the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle).

The statements and conclusions in this summary are those of the contractor and not necessarily those of the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle), its employees, or the State of California. In addition, the data in this report was provided by local sources but not independently verified. The State and its contractors make no warranty, express or implied, and assume no liability for the information contained in this text. Any mention of commercial products, companies or processes shall not be construed as an endorsement of such products or processes.

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Last updated: October 5, 2015
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