News Release

Office of Public Affairs

For Immediate Release: June 27, 2013
For more information contact:
Media Contact: Heather Jones

SACRAMENTO—Even with an improving economy, Californians reduced the amount of garbage we throw away to an all-time low in 2012.

According to figures compiled by the Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle), California’s disposal rate was 4.3 pounds per person per day last year, beating the previous low of 4.4 pounds per day set in 2011.

CalRecycle Director Caroll Mortensen said the latest figures are encouraging, especially in light of AB 341, which went into effect last year and sets a goal for California to reduce, recycle, or compost 75 percent of its waste by the year 2020.

“Each incremental step in waste diversion puts the state closer to our goal of 75 percent recycling,” Mortensen said. “The public is doing its part by being conscious of what we throw out and thinking about recycling and reuse. We at CalRecycle will continue to do our part by supporting recycling businesses and other waste diversion infrastructure that create green jobs and help achieve our goal.”

Each year, CalRecycle calculates the amount of waste disposed in California and divides that figure by the state population to establish the per capita disposal rate. Last year, 29.3 million tons were disposed statewide, and the population was 37.7 million, resulting in the 4.3 pounds per person per day disposal rate.

By comparison, in 1989—the year the state’s Integrated Waste Management Act went into effect—the rate was more than 8 pounds per person per day.

According to the California Department of Finance, labor markets, real estate markets and construction activity all showed some improvement in 2012. So far, this has not translated into increases in solid waste disposal. However, as the economic recovery picks up steam and consumption increases, solid waste generation is likely to grow as well. In order to achieve the 75 percent goal, the state will need to maximize its waste diversion and recycling capacity to direct materials away from landfills and back into the economy.

The 2012 per capita disposal rate boosts the state’s “diversion rate equivalent” to an all-time high of 66 percent, up from 65 percent in 2011.

The state’s per employee disposal rate, used to determine waste disposal rates for businesses, also improved, dropping from 11.3 pounds per employee per day in 2011 to 10.8 pounds last year.

Ninety-nine percent of California’s 29.3 million tons of waste went to California landfills, while approximately 1 percent was exported to landfills in other states.

More information about the 75 percent recycling goal and California’s waste disposal rates is available from CalRecycle’s website at

The following chart lists disposal and population data from 1995 to 2012.

(million tons)
Per Resident Disposal

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CalRecycle provides oversight of California solid waste handling and recycling programs to protect human health, develop sustainable solutions that conserve resources, and reduce greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change.