State Recycling Laws

The following recycling laws in California have driven recycling programs in recent years. This list does not encompass all recycling legislation in the state. For information on current recycling legislation, visit Californians Against Waste.

AB 939 - Recycling

In 1989, AB 939 established the current organization, structure and mission of CalRecycle. The purpose was to direct attention to the increasing waste stream and decreasing landfill capacity, and to mandate a reduction of waste being disposed. Jurisdictions were required to meet diversion goals of 25% by 1995 and 50% by the year 2000. A disposal reporting system was established with CalRecycle oversight, facility and program planning was required, and cities and counties began to address their waste problems.

Since 1989, the cities and county of San Mateo have implemented a variety of programs to address their waste including curbside recycling, commercial recycling programs, organics collection, backyard composting, electronics recycling, construction & demolition recycling ordinances and green building programs.

Many jurisdictions have struggled with numerical problems resulting from their early base year studies and have had to correct data and/or do new diversion studies. Therefore, the diversion rates in the past have not necessarily reflected the actual status of some jurisdictions. Although 2000 was the year in which jurisdictions might be fined for not meeting their goals, the CalRecycle has taken into consideration the good faith efforts being made to achieve diversion and granted extensions to many jurisdictions.

SB 1016 created a change in how the diversion rate is computed. The new per capita disposal and goal measurement system moves the emphasis from an estimated diversion measurement number to using an actual disposal measurement number as a factor, along with evaluating program implementation efforts.

The Cities and County of San Mateo Diversion Rates

AB 2020 - The California Bottle Bill

AB 2020 took affect in 1987 as litter prevention legislation. At present, the minimum refund value established for each type of eligible beverage container is 5 cents for each container under 24 ounces and 10 cents for each container 24 ounces or greater. For details on what containers can and can't be redeemed for money, visit the California Department of Conservation web site. To find a buy-back center in San Mateo County, visit our recycling database and search under "buyback centers."

AB 1305 - Recycled Newsprint Act

Passed in 1989, AB 1305 requires major newsprint consumers, such as newspapers, to use 25% recycled newsprint, and 50% by the year 2000. Currently, at least 50 percent of the newsprint used by printers and publishers in California must contain a minimum of 40 percent postconsumer paper fiber.

SB 20 - Electroncs Recycling

SB 20 was signed in September of 2003 and it establishes a system to recycle computers, TVs, and other video display devices when they reach their end-of-life. Fees will be collected from consumers at point of purchase to fund recycling programs.

More information on SB 20

AB 2901 - Cell Phone Recycling

AB 2901 was signed on September 29, 2004. It requires cell phone retailers to take back used cell phones for recycling free of charge to the customer.

The California Universal Waste Law

This legislation went into effect in February 2006. Universal wastes are hazardous wastes generated by a wide variety of people. Examples of these wastes are batteries, fluorescent tubes, and some electronic devices, that contain mercury, lead, cadmium, copper and other substances hazardous to human and environmental health. Universal waste may not be discarded in solid waste landfills. Rather, universal wastes are recyclable and can be managed under less stringent requirements from other hazardous wastes to encourage recycling and recovery of valuable metals.

More information on the law

AB 2449 - Plastic Bag Recycling

This law went into effect in July 2007. It requires all CA grocery stores to take back and recycle plastic grocery bags. The bill also requires retailers to provide consumers with a bag reuse opportunity by providing reusable bags which may be purchased and used in lieu of disposable ones.

Junk dealers and recyclers: nonferrous materials

AB 844
SB 691
Junk dealers and recyclers- newspaper and California Redemption Value (CRV) containers

AB 32 - California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006

Adopted in 2006, AB 32, the California Global Warming Solutions Act, sets goals for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change. The bill requires that greenhouse gas emissions be reduced to 1990 levels by 2020, which represents a 25% reduction from current levels, and has an ultimate goal of reducing emissions by 80% by 2050.

AB 32 directs the California Air Resources Board to begin developing discrete early actions to reduce greenhouse gases, while also preparing a scoping plan to identify how best to reach the 2020 limit.

AB 32 is a landmark piece of legislation and was one of the first in the world to establish a comprehensive program of regulatory and market mechanisms to achieve real, quantifiable, cost-effective reductions of greenhouse gas emissions.

More information on climate change and AB 32: