Thanks to an increasingly environmentally-conscious public and pressure on corporations to be responsible producers and make sustainability pledges, 2019 has been a busy year for environmental legislation in California. Here’s a sampling of pro-environment legislation that has either been approved or may be revisited in the 2020 session:

Signed by Governor in 2019:

AB 827 – Commercial recycling/organics access 

  • Requires recycling bins — that are accessible and adjacent to trash bins — to be provided at all businesses already subject to state recyclables and organics laws.
  • By July 1, 2020, CalRecycle must provide “model signage that commercial and organic waste generators…may utilize to mark the recycling bins.”

AB 1162 – Hospitality plastic reduction

  • If approved, lodging establishments with 50+ rooms will be prohibited from offering “personal care products” to guests in small plastic bottles by January 2023. The law would apply to all other establishments by 2024.

AB 815 – Dual-stream recycling

  • Encourages jurisdictions to switch from single- to dual-stream (source-separated) recycling, where containers/glass are separated from fiber in curbside recycling programs.
  • Directs CalRecycle to research the prevalence of source-separated recycling programs in the state.
  • The law’s intention is to use source separation to reduce contamination and increase marketability of materials.
  • Effective January 1, 2020.

SB 726 – Household hazardous waste reuse

  • Seeks to “reduce the unnecessary incineration and disposal of hazardous household waste products” (home and yard), 10% of which it estimates could be reused.
  • It authorizes “materials exchange programs” at local household hazardous waste collection facilities to make “reusable household hazardous products or materials available to recipients.”

AB 619 – Reusable containers

  • Authorizes reusable containers at food facilities.
  • Authorizes multi-use utensils at temporary food facilities. The utensils must be cleaned, rinsed, and sanitized by the temporary food facility or an approved food facility.

On Governor’s Desk or Deferred to Next Session (2020):

AB 792 – Recycled Content Requirements

  • Plastic beverage containers in the state’s deposit program must contain 50% recycled content by 2030.

AB 1593 – California Recycling Market Development Act

  • CalRecycle will form a Statewide Commission on Recycling Markets and Curbside Recycling, comprised of “public agencies, private solid waste enterprises, and environmental organizations with expertise in recycling.”
  • By January 2021 the Commission will “issue policy recommendations to achieve specified market development goals and waste reduction goals and provide regular feedback to [CalRecycle] on public messaging designed to encourage proper recycling and to minimize contamination in curbside recycling programs.”
  • The operation of the Recycling Market Development Revolving Loan Program was extended from July 2021 to 2031.
  • Authorization to provide financial assistance (in the form of sale and tax exclusion for qualifying projects) through the California Alternative Energy and Advanced Transportation Financing Authority was extended from January 2021 to 2026.
  • Rigid plastic containers and bottles will no longer be required to be labeled with an identifying triangular recyclable symbol.

SB 54 / AB 1080 – Solid waste packaging and products 

  • By 2030, all single-use plastic packaging/products sold or distributed in California must be recyclable or compostable by 2030. be reduced or recycled by 75% by 2030.”
  • Requires, by 2030, “a statewide 75% reduction of the waste generated from single-use packaging and priority single-use products…sold, distributed or imported into the state through source reduction, recycling, or composting.”
  • CalRecycle must “develop incentives and policies to encourage in-state manufacturing using recycled material generated in California.”

AB 729 – Carpet stewardship program

  • Introduces carpet recycling fees, paid by consumers at point of purchase, that are financially linked to the cost of recycling each carpet as well as its post-consumer recycled content; the more environmentally-friendly the carpet is, the lower the carpet recycling fee will be.
  • Incentivizes consumers and producers.

AB 54 – The California beverage container recycling and litter reduction act

  • Authorizes $5 million in grants for “up to 5 limited-term recycling pilot projects…designed to improve redemption opportunities in unserved convenience zones.”
  • Relieves grocery retailers from paying compliance fees (if no recycling centers open in their locations) until March 2020.
Bales of recycled plastic.

For a look at some impactful developments in the world of recycling, here are two interesting articles:

Published in The Atlantic on March 5, 2019:

Published in Plastics Recycling Update on March 6, 2019:

Organics Waste

In an article published in the March/April 2019 edition of BioCycle, Carrie Baxter wrote: “The next few years present a paradigm shift in the handling of solid waste, and organic waste in particular, which has real impacts on programs and, consequently, the rates charged to customers. As local jurisdictions and their franchised haulers implement and expand programs to meet these state laws and increase diversion of organics from waste streams, new challenges are emerging. These include how to pay for and enforce participation in the necessary recycling and organics collection services.”

Read the full article here.

Carrie Baxter is a Project Manager with R3 Consulting Group, Inc. in Roseville, California. She will be presenting on setting rates for organics collection at BioCycle WEST COAST19 –Track 1, April 2, 2019.

Per an article by Colin Staub in Resource Recycling, “California Assembly Member Cecilia Aguiar-Curry last week introduced Assembly Bill 815, which offers communities incentive to adopt dual-stream collections,” defined in the bill as the source separation of paper and containers, at minimum. Under this bill, communities that adopt dual-stream would automatically be considered compliant with the CA law requiring municipalities “to make efforts to implement source reduction and recycling initiatives to achieve 50 percent diversion.” Backers of the bill and dual-stream claim this move could lead to higher-quality recyclables recovery, which is especially important given the changes in the recycling commodity market — demand for lower contamination levels combined with lower commodity prices — brought on last year by China’s “National Sword” policy action.

See full article here:

See full Assembly Bill 815 here:

As reported in Waste Management Magazine, there are an estimated 50,000 – 70,000 California licensed and unlicensed cannabis cultivators, and “a typical, mid-sized manufacturer will produce 250 to 500 pounds of waste a day.” Given how rapidly this agricultural sector is growing, and the classification of cannabis waste as organic (vs. hazardous), there are concerns about the impact of cannabis waste on the state’s ability to accommodate the additional green waste via existing infrastructure and achieve California’s recycling goals.

See full article here:

As of January 1, 2020, a new California law mandates that drivers on public roads who approach or pass stopped waste service vehicles — that are readily identified and have their amber lights flashing — must do so at a safe speed and distance “without interfering with the safe operation of the waste service vehicle…” Drivers must only pass from an adjacent available lane and in conditions safe to both pedestrians and other vehicles.

To read the full text of AB 2115, click here:

AB 1884 - Plastic Straw Ban

Assembly Bill 1884, which went into effect on January 1, 2019, now prohibits “sit-down” restaurants in California from providing single-use straws, unless requested by customers. Straws made from non-plastic materials, including but not limited to paper, pasta, sugar cane, wood, or bamboo are exempt. Restaurants violating the law could be fined $25 per day or a maximum of $300 per year.

Ian Calderon, the assemblyman who authored the bill, stated: “We need to create awareness around the issue of one-time plastic straws and their detrimental effects on our landfills, waterways, and oceans. It (AB 1884) is a small step towards curbing our reliance on these convenience products, which will hopefully contribute to a change in consumer attitudes and usage.”

Click here to see the text of Assembly Bill 1884.

We are proud to announce that R3 Project Analyst Claire Wilson and Marketing Coordinator Kristy Dalay were awarded two out of the four 2019 Young Professionals Scholarships from the California Resource Recovery Association!

To learn more about CRRA and how young professionals can participate, click here.

3 Principal Garth Schultz presenting at San Rafael City Council meeting

R3 Principal, Garth Schultz, featured in news story on rate hikes in City of San Rafael. See story on KTVU News here!

To read the full article, click here.





Plastic Bales


  • Beijing notified the World Trade Organization in July 2017 that it planned to ban the import of 24 varieties of solid waste and recyclables (e.g., certain plastics and unsorted paper), and lower the minimum required contamination level from 1.5% to 0.3%.
  • The ban is part of a broader Chinese customs program called “Operation Green Fence,” which began in 2013 and aims to reduce waste importation and contamination of recyclable materials. The latest phase of this operation is called “National Sword” which increases enforcement and bans the import of many materials.
  • The import ban went into effect January 1, 2018. This has already begun to disrupt the recycling industry as bales of recyclables are piling up in waste facilities internationally. Although the contamination threshold has been relaxed to 0.5%, facility operators say this standard is still very difficult to meet.

Before the Green Sword Fell

Due to the United States’ large trade imbalance with China there is little demand for space in shipping containers returning to China, and historically, cheap shipping space has been filled by the solid waste materials our recycling industry sends to Chinese manufacturers. Combined with China’s large, inexpensive labor force, this made it cheaper for China to recycle imported material than to make those materials from raw feedstock. This dynamic also created a large volume outlet for the U.S. recycling industry, which has an abundance of scrap metal, paper, plastic, rubber and electronics that China needed to satisfy the demands of its growing manufacturing sector. Waste and recyclable materials are the sixth largest U.S. export to China, and in 2016 China processed at least half of the world’s exports of waste plastic, paper and metals.

Shockwaves Through the Recycling Industry

In 2017 news of the impending ban brought panic to recycling operators on an international scale. This change in international law represents a major upset to the flow of global recyclables, resulting in mounting stockpiles of waste materials in facilities that currently have no outlet. Many in the industry are concerned that this material will end up being landfilled or incinerated.

China has stated reasons for these new policies are related to environmental and public health. Imported garbage reportedly is filling China’s landfills and polluting waterways, while its workers face dangerous conditions and exposure to toxic chemicals. Economically, importing foreign waste was also becoming less attractive for China as its cost of labor rose and the demand for materials fell, although we understand that Chinese paper mills and other recycling industries are now paying significantly higher prices for the raw material they once purchased overseas as recycling feedstock.

Impacts to Recycling at Home and Internationally

For many materials collected through U.S. recycling programs sufficient markets and processing capacity do not currently exist outside China. Countries in Southeast Asia, such as Vietnam, Malaysia and Thailand, offer an outlet for the world’s exported waste materials but do not currently have the ability to accept the volume of recyclable material that was being shipped to China. The resulting surplus of materials will drive down prices for recyclables on the global market, while some materials have no clear destination. In addition, to help meet the 0.5% threshold processing facilities would need to slow down their sort lines and expend more labor to reduce contamination to an acceptable level, which will increase the cost of processing recyclables.

Markets in China and elsewhere remain for higher grade recyclables and recycled commodities. The ban presents an opportunity to review and improve recycling programs, as exporting countries will need to consider ways to reduce their waste and enhance their own recycling systems. For example, “wishful recycling” has created a contamination problem that must be addressed, potentially through renewed public education efforts and/or advanced waste processing technology.

China has grown increasingly concerned about how to better manage its own waste, and reportedly is limiting cheap waste imports in an effort to stimulate its waste management industry and establish an effective recycling system. At present it’s estimated that China generates more than 520,000 tons a day, most of which is landfilled or incinerated. China is also ranked as the globe’s worst ocean polluter, bringing hope that the Green Sword will catalyze a change in how much of China’s plastics and other waste ends up at sea.


Fact Sheet: Oregon Refuse & Recycling Association, China set to ban import of many recyclable

Article: China No Longer Wants Your Trash. Here’s Why That’s Potentially Disastrous

Article: Waste Management: Headwinds From China Ban on Foreign Waste