California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) 

Purchasing Compost & Mulch

Frequently Asked Questions

How do local jurisdictions and State agencies benefit from compost and mulch procurement programs?

Local jurisdictions and state agencies receive direct economic and environmental benefits from compost and mulch procurement programs. In addition, these programs can help California cities and Counties meet their 50 percent landfill diversion mandate.

What are the economic benefits?

By using compost and mulch to reduce dependence on chemical fertilizers and herbicides, you can cut costs for the purchase of those products. In addition you can conserve water and avoid disposal costs. In general you can save money by:

  • Reducing the use of herbicides.
  • Reducing the use of chemical fertilizers.
  • Creating markets for local compost producers.
  • Avoiding landfill disposal costs for green material.

What are the environmental benefits?

Diversion of, and use of compost and mulch made from organic materials reduces environmental impacts at landfills, including green house gas emissions, and yields benefits such as soil revitalization, erosion control, and water conservation. In general, using compost and mulch can result in:

  • Increased soil fertility.
  • Improved soil structure.
  • Increased water holding capacity (i.e. conserve water).
  • Increased resistance to erosion.
  • Improved disease resistance (by plants).

What other benefits could I realize from compost and mulch procurement?

In addition to these direct environmental and economic benefits, compost and mulch procurement programs can significantly contribute towards cities and counties meeting their 50 percent landfill diversion mandate by 2000. Additional indirect benefits may include:

  • Generating positive public publicity.
  • Conserving landfill capacity.
  • Meeting "State Agency Buy Recycled" mandates for compost purchases (State agencies).
  • Demonstrating good faith effort toward achieving diversion mandate (local agencies).

What can local jurisdictions and State agencies do to procure more compost and mulch?

While some jurisdictions have had difficulty finding markets for the materials they divert from landfills, there are actions they can take to create local markets for recycled materials. This includes implementing procurement programs to "close the loop" by providing local markets for locally produced compost and mulch. Possible opportunities that you should consider to increase the use of urban compost and mulch produced in your local area include:

  • Building landscaping applications.
  • Parks and playground uses.
  • Roadway landscaping applications.
  • Erosion control projects.

How can I work with my agency's procurement officer to promote compost and mulch procurement?

You can work with your procurement officer to ensure that your agency adopts policies and programs requiring the use of urban compost and mulch in place of, or to reduce the use of, forest products, fertilizers and herbicides. In addition, you should work with your procurement officer to document the long-term cost savings as a result of the reduced use of the above products, and through water conservation.

  • Develop end use specifications for suppliers to meet in order to sell compost and mulch to your agency.
  • Develop contract language that requires the use of urban compost and mulch in place of forest products in building landscaping, public open spaces and erosion control projects.
  • Document the cost savings and environmental benefits that accrued to your jurisdiction as a result of using locally produced compost and mulch made from organic materials diverted from disposal, and from the reduced use of the products mentioned above.

Purchasing Compost & Mulch

Last updated: October 14, 2003
Organic Materials Management