Why provide for waste diversion space in buildings?

It’s state and local policy

In California, State policy has set a goal of 75% waste diversion by 2020, and there are new state laws (AB 341 and AB 1826), for diversion of multifamily and commercial recyclables and organic waste (such as food scraps and plant debris) that are being implemented. The Alameda County Waste Management Authority and Recycling Board (jointly known as StopWaste) have set higher standards, originally calling for 75% reduction by 2010 and currently setting a goal of no more than 10 percent of compostables and recyclables to be disposed as refuse. To comply with these requirements, local policies and regulations may require that property owners provide space for occupants to divert wastes for recycling or organics processing.

It’s in building codes

California building designers have long been required to provide adequate space for recycling. The building code references a model space ordinance enacted by the State of California in 1991, which applies if there is no local ordinance to establish space requirements for waste diversion. Many Alameda County jurisdictions have adopted their own local ordinances with specific space and enclosure requirements that go beyond state requirements, so it’s important to check local planning departments for their requirements. Also, CALGreen building code changes will require that starting in 2017, new buildings and building additions that add more than 30% of the building floor area must provide space for all occupants to recycle non-hazardous materials, including (at a minimum) paper, corrugated cardboard, glass, plastics, metals, and organic waste. The building code also states that if locally-enacted ordinances are more restrictive, they must be complied with. Updates to the 2013 building code will be published in July 2016 and will be enforced beginning July 2017.

New California legislation requires more diversion

Recent State legislation adds requirements for the diversion of organic materials from multifamily solid waste. The threshold is 8 cubic yards (CY) of organics in April 2016, decreasing to four CY of organics in January 2017. These requirements also apply to businesses of any size.

AB 1826, signed into law in September 2014, requires that 5+ unit multifamily dwellings generating certain threshold amounts of discards per week arrange for organics recycling services.

It’s required throughout Alameda County

On the local level, most of StopWaste’s member agencies have opted in to a countywide ordinance that makes recycling and organics separation mandatory for businesses as well as multi-family buildings with 5 or more units. Citations and fines are possible if recyclables and organics are not properly diverted. Requirements and implementation schedules vary by jurisdiction; see the RecyclingRulesAC.org web site for specifics. Throughout all of Alameda County there has also been a landfill ban on plant debris in effect since 2009, which requires businesses and multifamily sites generating four or more cubic yards of discards per week to prevent plant debris from being disposed as refuse.

It saves resources and may reduce costs

In addition to legal requirements and policy goals, the environment benefits when discarded recyclables and organics are used as a resource. Waste diversion reduces the need to convert open space to landfill space, and it reduces greenhouse gas emissions in two ways: by substituting recyclables for new raw materials to make paper, plastic, metal, glass, etc., and by reducing methane production from organics in landfills. In locales where garbage and recycling rates create an incentive to divert waste, waste diversion can save money for building owners. Providing well-planned space for storing recyclables and compostables makes it easier for occupants to divert wastes while keeping the building owner’s disposal costs down. Check with local jurisdictions or StopWaste for your local rate information.