California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) 

Innovations Case Studies

Summary: Government Facilities

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Most of the focus of the California Integrated Waste Management Act of 1989 (AB 939, Sher, Chapter 1095, Statutes of 1989) has been on addressing residential and commercial waste streams.  But government facilities can contribute significantly to a local jurisdiction’s waste stream. A variety of government facilities may be located within a jurisdiction, including the following:

  • City/county government offices
  • State government offices
  • Federal government offices
  • CALTRANS facilities and road project offices
  • School districts (K–12)
  • Colleges and universities
  • Military bases
  • Local, regional, State and national parks, and recreation areas
  • State and federal prisons

The two key components to addressing waste reduction at government facilities are:

  • Implementing waste prevention, recycling, and composting programs for materials generated at government facilities.
  • Purchasing environmentally preferable products, including those that contain recycled content.

Understanding the Rules for Recycling

The biggest challenge for communities addressing waste prevention and recycling at government facilities is understanding the rules that apply at each level of government and among the various agencies.  AB 75 (Strom-Martin, Chapter 764, Statutes of 1999) eased the challenge of working with State agencies.

Local Agency Rules

Recycling policies vary among local governments. In most cases, the city council or board of supervisors has passed an ordinance that mandates certain types of in-house recycling programs. Sacramento County implemented a recycling ordinance that requires all private haulers to achieve at least 30 percent waste diversion. The ordinance also covers county facilities, including the county’s two transfer stations.

One challenge for local governments is implementing recycling programs for community service districts (CSDs). CSDs and other special districts are often formed in unincorporated areas and have their own governing body. As a result, they are not under the direct control of a city or county agency. AB 75 requires CSDs to report to jurisdictions on their programs and tonnages. While the provision doesn’t require CSDs to comply with the AB 939 requirements, it does provide information on CSD activities that cities and counties can include in their annual reports to the CalRecycle.

State Agency Recycling Rules

In 1999, Governor Davis signed AB 75, which mandates that State agencies comply with AB 939 diversion requirements. Public Resources Code (PRC) sections 42920–42928 require each State agency to:

  • Develop an integrated waste management plan. State agencies may prepare their own plan or use the model plan developed by the Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle).
  • Divert 25 percent of waste generated by 2002 and 50 percent by 2004 (includes each large State facility, such as individual California State University campuses, community colleges, and prisons).
  • Appoint a recycling coordinator.
  • Provide adequate areas for recycling in State-owned and leased buildings.
  • Report annually on program implementation and diversion rates.

“Agency” includes every State office, department, board, commission, or other agency of the State. In addition to the requirements of AB 75, the following policies and statutes address state agency recycling:

  • Executive Order W-7-91 requires California State agencies to buy recycled products and set up recycling programs.
  • Public Contract Code (PCC) Sections 12164.5–12167.1 require the CalRecycle to develop a recycling plan and implement recycling programs for the Legislature and all State-owned and leased buildings.
  • PCC 12167.1 requires State agencies and institutions to report materials collected for recycling to the CalRecycle.
  • PRC 42560–42562 requires the CalRecycle to recycle high-grade white office paper in California State offices.
  • California State Administration Manual Chapter 1990 encourages employees at State facilities to prevent waste, reuse, and recycle.

The CalRecycle is responsible for overseeing AB 75 implementation and assisting State agencies in the development of their programs.

State Buy Recycled Rules

The State’s procurement requirements are the result of AB 4, (Eastin, Chapter 1094, Statutes of 1989), AB 11 (Eastin, Chapter 960, Statutes of 1993) and SB 827 (Sher, Chapter 816, Statutes of 1999).  The current laws require State agencies to:

  • Purchase enough recycled content products (RCP) to meet annual targets for specified product categories.
  • Report annual purchases of RCPs and non-recycled products in specified product categories.
  • Submit plans identifying how the annual goals for RCPs will be attained.
  • Require contractors to certify, under penalty of perjury, the recycled content of the products they offer to the State.
  • Purchase all RCPs, instead of nonrecycled products, whenever they are available, at no more than the total cost of non-recycled products, and where fitness and quality are comparable.
  • Attain mandated RCP procurement goals regardless of the price differences between recycled- and non-recycled-content products.

Federal Agency Rules

On October 20, 1993, President Bill Clinton signed Executive Order 12873, “Federal Acquisition, Recycling and Waste Prevention.” On September 14, 1998, he signed Executive Order 13101, which strengthened the implementation and enforcement of recycling requirements. The executive orders require each agency to:

  • Include recycling provisions in the acquisition of all leased space and in the construction of new federal buildings.
  • Initiate a recycling program that is compatible with State and local recycling requirements (emphasis added).
  • Establish goals for both waste prevention and recycling and report on progress in its annual report.

“Agency” includes all Executive agencies as defined in US Code: Title 5, Section 105, including the Department of Defense. The executive orders also allow Executive agencies to retain a share of proceeds from the sale of recycled materials. The Office of the Federal Environmental Executive (OFEE) is responsible for overseeing the implementation of recycling and procurement programs at federal agencies.

Federal Facilities Compliance Program

Located in the Cross-Media Division, this program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 9 ensures that federal agencies and their facilities take actions necessary to prevent, control, and abate environmental pollution.

The program’s approach to federal facilities emphasizes outreach and training, compliance assistance and enforcement, and strengthened partnerships such as:

  • Conferences, workshops, and training programs designed to assist federal facilities.
  • Compliance assistance through environmental management reviews and pollution prevention assessments.
  • Partnership activities to identify and recognize environmental excellence within federal facilities.

Assisting Governmental Agencies

Project Recycle

This program, administered by the CalRecycle, implements waste prevention, reuse, and recycling programs at State-owned and leased buildings and facilities. Project Recycle:

  • Manages State recycling contracts.
  • Trains and advises State employees and recycling coordinators.
  • Acts as a liaison between State facilities and recyclers.
  • Provides recycling information, supplies, and equipment.
  • Gathers and reports data on materials collected for recycling.

State Agency Buy Recycled Campaign

The State Agency Buy Recycled Campaign (SABRC) is a joint effort between the Department of General Services (DGS) and the CalRecycle to implement State law requiring State agencies and the Legislature to purchase products with recycled content. The SABRC offers a variety of help to buy recycled products, including the State Agency Buy Recycled Campaign Manual that includes handy forms and definitions of terms.

Program Characteristics

Government programs require a great deal of planning and coordination. Some key elements for these programs include:

  • Waste prevention, reuse, recycling, and recycled-content product procurement.
  • Improving internal processes.
  • Securing upper management support and soliciting employee input.
  • Knowing your waste types.
  • Setting waste reduction policies and goals.
  • Designating a waste reduction team and coordinator.
  • Developing an action plan.
  • Measuring savings.
  • Educating/Publicizing results.
  • Making waste prevention and reuse a priority.
  • Utilizing materials exchanges.
  • Consider deconstructing old buildings.
  • Landscaping for waste-efficiency.
  • Developing a buy recycled program.

Local Government Challenges and Opportunities

Local governments need to practice what they are advocating. Asking residents and businesses to recycle and buy recycled products is difficult to do if communities are not meeting the same high standards themselves. Many communities in California recognize that and have adopted strong policies and are implementing programs to achieve those goals.

As with many businesses, communities find that they can actually save money by more careful review and development of recycling and trash disposal systems for their own facilities. Local governments may also obtain significant amounts of waste diversion through requirements placed on contractors doing work for the community (e.g., road and highway repairs and construction).

Since the passage of AB 75, local governments are in a unique position to work more closely with State agencies. They can start by contacting all State agencies and facilities within their jurisdiction to find out the contact person for AB 75 within each agency. Communities should request copies of all reports filed with agency headquarters (if outside the community) or the CalRecycle. Caltrans projects and major prisons in the state present excellent opportunities for waste diversion. With the help of Project Recycle staff from the CalRecycle, communities could follow the example of Corcoran State Prison and obtain remarkably high waste diversion rates in a matter of months.

Federal facilities in California have been working for many years to implement waste reduction, recycling, and recycled product procurement programs. Communities could contact federal facilities in their area and ask for information on their programs that they can include in their annual reports to the CalRecycle. In addition, communities could offer federal and State facilities technical and financial assistance in meeting waste diversion goals.

Offering training and educational sessions for local, State, and federal government agencies in a community is one of the best tools local governments can use to make an impact in waste diversion. This tool is effective for different types of offices, facilities, and projects. If conducted with outreach to businesses in the community, significant waste diversion is possible quickly.

Tips for Replication

  • Contact Project Recycle at CalRecycle to identify State agencies and facilities in your community and their local contact persons. Request copies from the CalRecycle of the integrated waste management plans State agencies file to comply with AB 75.
  • Send letters to all State agencies and facilities (and follow up with phone calls) to offer assistance in meeting requirements of AB 75.
  • Identify all federal agencies and facilities in the community by using the “blue pages” of telephone directories as a starting point.
  • Send letters to all federal agencies and facilities offering assistance in implementing federal executive orders.
  • Pool your resources with other communities, regional solid waste authorities, and county government recycling coordinators to organize outreach and training programs.


Pursuant to contract (IWM-C8028) with the University of California at Santa Cruz for a series of 24 studies and summaries, Californians Against Waste Foundation (Sacramento, CA) wrote this summary for the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) and Gary Liss & Associates provided research and editing.

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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