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CalRecycle close to adoption of commercial recycling regulation

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A proposed set of regulations that establishes a statewide mandatory commercial recycling program was issued by the Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) on Nov. 2. The Department held a hearing on the proposal Dec. 13 and expects to adopt it sometime in early 2012.

CLFP has been actively involved in the development of the new regulations, specifically guarding against any changes to current recycling regulations, that would interfere with or increase costs to food processors’ current operations or grant additional authority to local jurisdictions.

Neither AB 341 nor the draft regulations actually require a local jurisdiction to implement and enforce the diversion requirement itself. All that is required is that the jurisdiction implement an education and outreach program designed to inform the covered businesses of the requirements of the new law, and that it implement a program to monitor the extent to which covered businesses are complying with the requirements.

The commercial recycling rule was one of the rules that the Air Resources Board planned to adopt pursuant to its greenhouse gas reduction plan (AB 32 Scoping Plan). Earlier this year, the ARB formally proposed a set of regulations that it planned to adopt at its October meeting under its AB 32 rulemaking. However, between the time the ARB proposal was released and the planned adoption date, Governor Brown signed AB 341 (Chesbro), which hands authority to adopt a commercial recycling rule to CalRecycle. In response, the ARB elected to cancel its proposed regulation and let CalRecycle go ahead and adopt its own version consistent with AB 341.

CalRecycle’s proposed set of regulations on mandatory commercial recycling includes the following basic elements: 

• CalRecycle states that its AB 341 proposal retains the "fundamental framework and principal requirements" of the earlier ARB AB 32 proposal.

• The definition of business includes multi-family housing of five or more units regardless of the amount of waste generated. It also includes all for-profit or non-profit entities however organized (e.g. sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, etc.) that generate four cubic yards or more of solid waste per week. This definition covers strip malls (e.g. any property complex containing two or more commercial activities); industrial facilities; schools; school districts; individual units of the California State University, U.C. and community college systems; any special district; or any federal, state, local, regional agency or facility.

• Commercial solid waste includes any material(s) generally disposed of in a solid waste landfill.

• In order to comply with the regulation covered entities must choose one of the following two options: 

(1) Separate recyclable materials from their solid waste stream (source separation) and either self-haul, subscribe to a hauler, and/or allow the pickup of recyclables so that the separated material is diverted from disposal to recycling, reuse, or composting. In the case of the self-haul option, the Department expects local jurisdictions to flesh out the requirements of how a self-hauler may dispose of its waste and how that business will document its compliance. 

(2) Subscribe to a recycling service that includes mixed-waste processing as part of a system that diverts recyclables from disposal and yields results similar to individual source separation by the business itself. The Department notes that this option is "controversial" and the exact meaning of it will be further fleshed out once the regulation is finalized.

• The proposed regulation does not specify how much or what type of materials must be recycled, nor does it limit the types of materials that could be included in a recycling program. That will be up to each local jurisdiction (LEA) that will have responsibility for implementing the regulation at the local level.

CalRecycle notes that most local jurisdictions already operate commercial recycling programs that individual businesses can participate in voluntarily. These include jurisdictions that collect the same source-separate materials from businesses that they collect from residential customers to rural communities that have drop-off programs. The Department assumes that many of these jurisdictions will meld the businesses and multi-residential housing structures covered by this program into those programs.

• CalRecycle will monitor each jurisdiction’s enforcement of the education, outreach, and monitoring requirements. Those requirements will be enforced in the same way the Department currently enforces the other requirements of the state’s solid waste law (AB 939).

• Although it will not enforce actual diversion requirements, CalRecycle will look at whether the state as a whole is meeting the approximately 2-3 million tons diversion goal of the regulation by conducting statewide waste characterization studies in 2012 and 2019. The Department expects each local jurisdiction, through its monitoring program, to have some information on which to monitor how the program is working, including the number of businesses that are located in the jurisdiction, how many meet the 4 tons/day generation threshold, and how many of those are actually recycling. The Department expects the jurisdiction to obtain this data from hauler records, although the jurisdiction will not be held responsible for a hauler that refuses to provide the data.

The draft regulation, the question and answer document and other information on the new program can all be found at:

Article written by John Larrea, Director, Government Affairs


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