A generation ago, Californians embraced a recycling ethic based on the desire to reduce litter, conserve natural resources, and cut our reliance on landfills. Today, a focus on recycling organic materials is central to California’s efforts to combat climate change.
When landfilled, organic waste—materials such as leaves, grass, agricultural crop residues, and food scraps—generates methane, which has a heat-trapping effect about 80 times greater than carbon dioxide over a 20-year timeline. Reducing methane emissions within 20 years is necessary to avert the worst impacts of climate change.
The good news is that organics are readily recyclable into soil amendments like compost, mulch, and liquid fertilizers, as well as biofuel, a renewable natural gas. This is already happening across California, but because organics is such a large portion of our waste stream (about a third), we need to do more. Food waste alone accounts for about 18 percent of landfill disposal, and we can reduce that percentage by reducing food waste and increasing edible food rescue.
California law (SB 1383, Lara, Chapter 395, Statutes of 2016) targets a 50 percent reduction in the landfilling of organic waste in 2022. By 2025, that reduction target is 75 percent. While some communities already have curbside organics collection services—including food waste collection—additional communities will need to implement organics collection programs to meet these goals.
You can help California meet these goals by setting up a home compost system and recycling at home, by using worms to compost, or by joining your neighbors and co-workers in a community composting project. One of the most powerful things you can do to help California adapt to a changing climate is to use compost and mulch produced in California to sequester carbon in the soil.
CalRecycle is helping build at 21st-century organics infrastructure that will provide jobs, protect the environment, and put organic waste back to work growing food and building healthy soil. You can learn more about CalRecycle's investments in organics management facilities at our Organics Grant Program page.
Organic Waste Prevention at Home
Compost and Mulch
Composting at Home
Residential Organics Recycling Collection
In September 2016, Governor Brown signed SB 1383 (Lara, Chapter 395, Statutes of 2016), which established targets to achieve a 50 percent reduction of the statewide disposal of organic waste from the 2014 level by 2020 and a 75 percent reduction by 2025. While some communities already have curbside organics collection service—including food waste collection—additional communities will implement organics collection programs to meet these goals.
Landfilled Waste Contributes to Climate Change
When organic waste is landfilled, it decomposes anaerobically (without air), resulting in methane gas emissions. Methane is a short-lived climate pollutant. California law targets short-lived climate pollutants because reducing these emissions is critical to averting the worst impacts of a changing climate.
Healthy soils are a critical part of the long-term sustainability of food production and can contribute to reducing greenhouse gases.
Learn more about the connection between compost, carbon, and climate change.