In California, recycling and waste management are shared responsibilities between the State, local jurisdictions, and the waste and recycling industry. In light of recent changes to recycling markets, jurisdictions and their industry partners are taking steps to encourage waste prevention, reduce contamination of recyclable materials, and improve postcollection processing. The diversity of responses to National Sword demonstrates the complexity of the problem in California, where recycling and waste management often varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.

Some material recovery facilities are hiring more workers and slowing down sorting lines to reduce contamination before baling recyclables for export. Jurisdictions are implementing educational campaigns to reduce contamination at the generator-level.


  • Group of California businesses and organizations support The California Recycling and Plastic Pollution Reduction Act of 2020, a ballot initiative to curb plastic pollution through the reduction of non-recyclable single use packaging and foodware and a Plastic Pollution Reduction Fee on producers.
  • In their new contract with hauler Greenwaste, the city of Palo Alto requires the company to gather information about the environmental and social impacts associated with the full life-cycle of the city’s recyclable materials. This includes providing information about the primary purchasers of all paper and plastics, final use of all material, and potential risk for human rights and/or environmental violations at the location where any material purchasers are located.


  • Rising curbside collection rates are increasingly difficult to attribute to only National Sword and its effect on scrap value. Jurisdictions also cite rate increases on other factors like rising labor costs, fuel costs, new infrastructure and compliance with SB 1383. Some of the jurisdictions that have announced rate increases for curbside collection include: Napa,  Fairfield, San Ramon, California City, Hesperia, Unincorporated San Mateo County, Unincorporated El Dorado County, Needles, Cambria, San Francisco, Bakersfield, Oceanside, Manteca, San Luis Obispo, Grover Beach, and Monterey (not a comprehensive list). 
  • Amador County will soon have to pay a $160/ton processing charge for recyclables delivered to their processor, a drastic shift from the $33/ton of revenue they are currently receiving. 
  • San Jose is renegotiating its contracts with solid waste haulers and is exploring methods to encourage residences and businesses to produce less waste. 
  • San Diego’s hauler requests suspension of all revenue payments and charge for materials received from the city instead. 
  • Grass Valley City Council approved an annual rate increase for garbage collection service.
  • City of Fremont increasing residential garbage bills by $1.50 a month to cover additional sorting and processing costs.
  • Nevada City will charge a fee to residents and businesses who receive multiple recycling contamination violations. So far, giving residents a warning has led to a reduction in their bin’s contamination.


Incentives and Events

  • City of Vallejo has begun the fourth year of their recycling reward program that awards residential and commercial recycling customers a year of free garbage service or a discount for properly sorted recycling and trash bins.
  • StopWaste (Alameda County) is convening a regional task force to share information, plan public outreach responses and produce recommendations for changes to local recycling programs. The task force includes recycled commodity brokers, local haulers/processors, facility operators and government officials. They have released a recycling messaging and graphics bank to help jurisdictions communicate with the public about recycling.
  • South Bayside Waste Management Authority is hosting a “Rethink Recycling Day” and offering facility tours, and other recycling and reuse activities.
  • City of Victorville and Burrtec partner for Victorville Recycles Week to host a school competition that encourages good recycling habits. 

Electronic and Print Resources

  • CalRecycle November 2018 Presentation on Education and Outreach: Examples from across California  (Under Documents section of Public Notice)
  • The City of Sacramento released a phone application with their Waste Wizard database to help people easily determine what materials should be recycled or disposed.
  • RethinkWaste in San Mateo County released an electronic guide to help residents and businesses determine what goes in the recycling bin. The guide is available in English and Spanish. Parts of the guide will be used for their upcoming social media and print campaign to get people to “Recycle Right”, as well as reduce their waste.
  • The City of Sunnyvale made a flier addressing the 12 most common contaminants in their recycling stream and information about why those materials are not recyclable.
  • Del Norte Solid Waste Management Authority’s Rethinking Recycling Radio discusses recycling and current issues about waste management. 
  • San Luis Obispo County is rolling out a new education campaign in partnership with Cold Canyon Processing facility. Check out the county’s updated recycling guide.
  • Sacramento County published a special insert in local newspapers about residential recycling and contamination in collaboration with major local haulers. They have also started a pilot education program to test new carts and begin contamination education.
  • Mid-Valley Disposal, a hauler in the Central Valley, is altering its educational materials to be more specific as to what materials can be placed in recycling containers to combat contamination. It also addresses National Sword in its quarterly newsletters.
  • In January 2019, The California Refuse and Recycling Council placed an 8-page supplement in the Sacramento Bee about the state of recycling, the need for infrastructure and helpful tips for residents about conscious consumption. 
  • Sonoma County’s 2018 Recycling Guide is an example of free comprehensive recycling guide for residents.
  • Recology initiated a "Better at the Bin" campaign to encourage reduced consumption and better recyclables sorting. They have recently added new tips and videos about reducing plastic waste, food waste and more. 
  • Sonoma County Resource Recovery video introducing their new dual stream recycling cart in Windsor ties the importance of recycling right to current challenges in the recycling industry.


  • LA Sanitation exploring options for fiber and some plastics processing in nearby Baja California, Mexico. Existing trade agreements and infrastructure make it an promising option for the region.  
  • A recycling center in Kern County has shut down its sort line and is landfilling cardboard.
  • Mill Valley Refuse Service completed an alternating weeks dual-stream pilot for five cities to determine the viability of switching to a dual-stream collection system. They concluded that switching to dual-stream collection is a viable option if a second recycle cart is provided to residential customers. MVRS will be presenting the results of their study and rate options for both systems to their jurisdictions beginning April 1, 2019. 
  • City of San José is partnering with GreenWaste Recovery, Inc. and BioCellection for pilot to process hard-to-recycle plastics.
  • Bakersfield is composting mixed paper from recycling bin.

Changes to Acceptable Materials for Curbside Recycling

  • In Alameda County, Emeryville, Alameda and Hayward no longer accept milk cartons in the recycling bin. 
  • Marin Sanitary Service no longer accepts materials based on resin identification codes, largely effecting plastics #3-7s. They now accept plastic “bottles, jugs and tubs”
  • Monterey County Regional Waste Management stopped accepting plastic bags for recycling on August 1, 2018.
  • In July 2018, the City of Sacramento stopped accepting plastics 4-7, shredded paper, and plastic foam. In November 2018, the City began accepting plastics 4-7 again, citing enough capacity with their processor. 
  • Gilton Solid Waste stops offering plastic, glass and metal recycling to commercial accounts in the cities of Waterford and Oakdale. All paper products, green waste, and food waste is collected in the recycling container and will be composted.
  • Lassen County stops accepting plastics #3-7 in the curbside program.
  • Manteca residents can only place corrugated cardboard, plastics #1 & #2, metal containers and CRV redemption bottles and cans in their recycling bin beginning Dec 1, 2018. In February 2019, the city will begin taking away recycling bins that continue to have other non-acceptable materials. 

Waste Reduction

  • An increasing number of jurisdictions are passing ordinances restricting single use plastic foodware and/or certain plastic materials.  Each ordinance is unique, but all are efforts to address public outcry over plastic pollution and reduce the generation of non-recyclable plastics. Cities/counties that have enacted (or are contemplating) plastic-focused ordinances not addressed below include: Encinitas, San Luis Obispo County, Alameda County, Fairfax, Monterey, San Anselmo, Petaluma, Sebastopol, Monterey County, and Solana Beach (not a comprehensive list). 
  • San Francisco International Airport bans plastic water bottles smaller than one liter, offers aluminum and glass alternatives as well as promoting that travelers use one of over 100 water refill stations.
  • Santa Cruz County bans the sale of single-use plastic water bottles from county facilities and directs staff to draft ordinance for fees on single-use cups in the unincorporated county. The Board of Supervisors did not pursue some other suggested bans, including plastic to-go ware, helium balloons, cigarettes with plastic filters, and e-cigarettes.
  • Palo Alto adopted a ban on plastic straws, utensils and stirrers in food service establishments (January 2020) and produce and meat bags in grocery stores and farmers markets (July 2020). They also approved a deconstruction ordinance (July 2020) that requires the deconstruction of old buildings in order for those materials to be more easily separated, reused and recycled. 
  • Imperial Beach passes Marine Protection Ordinance banning plastic food packaging and other single-use plastic materials in order to limit harm to their beach environment. Specific provisions of the ordinance apply to food establishments, the city, city vendors and special events held in the city. 
  • The City of Berkeley passed an ordinance aimed at eliminating single-use foodware by 2020, with the primary sponsor of the measure referencing the collapse of overseas recycling markets and single use litter in streets and waterways. 
  • Nine California cities have banned plastic straws unless customers request them.