Update: Re-Clarifying the Definition of “Solid Waste” in the Context of AB 341 and AB 1826

Back in July 2018, we published a blog post on Clarifying the Definition of “Solid Waste” in the Context of AB 341 and AB 1826. Our research was prompted by mixed messages our Program Tracker customers were receiving about the official definition of “4 cubic yards of commercial solid waste per week,” as it pertains to the thresholds for AB 341 and AB 1826 (Mandatory Commercial Recycling and Mandatory Commercial Organics Recycling – Jan 1, 2019 threshold).

After considerable communication with CalRecycle, we published the precise information we were given, which is that the 4 cubic yards referred to garbage only for both laws.

In recent weeks, however, we have once again been hearing mixed messages from our customers. So back we went to CalRecycle, and we have now been informed that after further internal discussions, the official definitions have been updated to the following:

  • Mandatory Commercial Recycling (AB 341)
    Threshold is 4 cubic yards of garbage only.
  • Mandatory Commercial Organics Recycling (AB 1826 – Jan 1, 2019 Threshold)
    Threshold is 4 cubic yards of garbage, recycling and organics combined.

The official explanation is in the CalRecycle Mandatory Commercial Organics Recycling (MORe) Frequently Asked Questions, Question A.18.

An important note on the number of businesses this distinction affects — the FAQ includes the following language:

[F]or most, if not all jurisdictions, the businesses that meet the 2019 threshold for MORe should be equivalent to, or nearly equivalent to, the group of businesses and multi-family complexes that the jurisdiction has been targeting as part of its Mandatory Commercial Recycling (MCR) program.

However, based on the data that we track across our many customers’ Program Trackers, we have found these two groups are nowhere near equivalent.

In fact, the number of businesses that fall under the Jan 1, 2019 threshold for AB 1826 is on average 70% higher than the number of businesses that fall under AB 341.

So our data shows that most jurisdictions will have to track almost twice as many businesses in light of this clarified definition.

Another interesting number we found is that, on average, 20% of all commercial and multi-family accounts have less than 4 cubic yards of garbage, but more than 4 cubic yards of all waste streams combined. So it’s not just a few businesses we are talking about here, but nearly a quarter of all accounts, which can add up to 1,000+ additional businesses that now must be tracked, depending on the size of the jurisdiction.

Of course with SB 1383 coming down the pike, everyone is looking at a lot more tracking of organics diversion on a business-by-business level anyway. But as of this new information, the bar is rising a little faster than we anticipated.

Keeping track of all these numbers (along with coordinating outreach, generating service estimates, and implementing local ordinances and programs) is a time-consuming responsibility for many haulers and local government personnel. If you’re not yet using our Program Tracker to offload some of the burden, please get in touch — we’d love to help!