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California Businesses Face New Organic Waste Mandates in 2022

By John Lormon and Matt Abbot

Since 2006 California has aggressively pursued establishment of economy-wide greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction programs. One recent program is aimed at reducing the release of methane gas from landfills through mandated diversion of business-generated organic waste. Local government jurisdictions are required to adopt new enforceable ordinances to implement this organic waste program by January 1, 2022. These ordinances will immediately impact commercial businesses and the jurisdictions in which they operate.

Senate Bill 1383

California Senate Bill 1383 requires the Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) and the State Air Resources Board (ARB) to implement a comprehensive strategy to reduce emissions of powerful climate change forces that have relatively short atmospheric lifetimes, the “Short-Lived Climate Pollutants” (SLCPs). It amends the Health and Safety Code (HSC) to require the reduction of statewide emissions of methane by 40% below 2013 levels by 2030 and the reduction of landfill organic waste disposal by 75% below 2014 levels by 2025.

Commercial Business Impacts

As of January 1, 2022, all California commercial businesses, absent an exception set out below, must do the following: provide organic waste containers for their customers, employees, contractors, and tenants; establish and provide organic waste management training; conduct organic waste monitoring to ensure that organic waste is being source separated; and subscribe to an approved organic waste hauling service or, alternatively, self-haul their organic waste in compliance with the regulations.

The regulations permit local government jurisdictions to adopt standards that are more stringent than the requirements of the state-wide regulations, so businesses with locations in multiple California jurisdictions will need to closely monitor these requirements to ensure compliance with local rules. For example, some jurisdictions like San Diego County have already adopted ordinances that address the SLCP regulations.

Requirements Imposed on Local Government Jurisdictions

Jurisdictions are required to adopt enforceable mechanisms to implement the SLCP regulations by January 1, 2022. Jurisdictions have the authority to grant waivers to organic waste generators under certain circumstances, exempting those generators from some or all of the SLCP regulation requirements. Additionally, local governments in certain areas may apply to CalRecycle for program waivers, exempting some or all of the organic waste generators in their jurisdictions from SB 1383 requirements. Local program waivers can apply where the population subject to the jurisdiction of the local government is small, or the geographic area served by the local jurisdiction is at or above a certain elevation.

Jurisdictions are required to have an inspection and compliance program in place by January 1, 2022. Prior to February 1, 2022, local jurisdictions must provide organic waste education and outreach information to most generators, including edible food recovery information to “Tier One” and “Tier Two” commercial edible food generators like grocery stores, restaurants, and hotels.

As of April 1, 2022, local jurisdictions may begin monitoring waste hauler routes to determine if commercial businesses are complying with organic waste generator requirements. Local jurisdictions and CalRecycle may begin issuing penalties for non-compliance in amounts ranging from $50 to $10,000 per violation per day depending on the severity and type of violation.

Time To Act

The SLCP regulations are additive to existing solid waste recycling requirements established by earlier legislative bills such as AB 341, AB 1826, and AB 827, which already apply to California commercial businesses. Organic waste generators will need to take SB 1383 compliance actions prior to January1, 2022, and they will need to closely monitor local requirements to ensure compliance with organic waste ordinances that may vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.

Procopio’s Environment and Natural Resources attorneys can help you navigate current California solid and organic waste disposal regulations and prepare to be compliant with regulations becoming operative in the New Year.
 

John Lormon provides counsel for projects requiring environmental permits to meet the Clean Water Act, California Water Code, endangered species, climate, and CEQA/NEPA obligations. He has been lead counsel for clients in biofuels, food product and food processing facilities, cattle operations, desalination plants, waste water treatment plants, hotels, office buildings, and other industrial, commercial, and residential developments. He also provides compliance counseling on hazardous and universal waste, Prop 65, asbestos abatement, and stormwater.

Matt Abbot is an attorney in Procopio’s Environment and Natural Resources practice group, and assists a wide range of public and private clients in all matters of environmental law compliance. He has a particular interest in laws and regulations related to climate change policy. Matt is a former U.S. Navy pilot with over 3,400 hours of flight time.