No, Californians Will Not Start Getting Fined for Not Separating Their Food Waste (Yet)

What’s the Deal with California’s New Food Waste Separation & Composting Law?

It’s true, there will be some changes coming as to how Californians deal with their trash. A law passed back in 2016 under Governor Jerry Brown (SB 1383)1SB-1383 Short-lived climate pollutants: methane emissions: dairy and livestock: organic waste: landfills.(2015-2016) takes effect starting January 1, 2022, that aims to get residents and businesses to start separating out their food waste (sometimes called “organic waste”) from other trash.

The reasoning behind this law is that food waste, such as leftover food scraps or inedible things like egg shells and banana peels, release methane as they decompose. Methane is one of the leading greenhouse gases contributing to climate change. So, instead of letting these items rot in a landfill, it’s better for the environment if they can be composted in order to capture that methane and even possibly use it to produce energy.

But you may not need to start making any changes right away. You have at least 2 years before the state starts “laying down the law.”

Does this mean I need to start composting?

No. Ultimately, the state wants the food waste to be composted. Residents can choose to either compost directly themselves, or simply separate the food waste for it to be sent to a composting facility.

How do I separate my food waste from other garbage?

Your waste hauler should provide you information about this in the coming months. In most cases, you will need to put food waste in a special bin, or the green bin that is often used for yard waste. For now, you don’t need to worry about it until you receive further instructions.

What if I live in an apartment building or condo complex?

It’s possible that your waste hauler will impose different rules for multi-unit complexes. They may not require apartment or condo dwellers to separate food waste, and could instead decide to separate these items themselves at their facilities. Again, it’s still being worked out.

What happens if I don’t separate my food waste?

Probably nothing will happen to you if you don’t separate your food waste, until January 2024, that is. At that time, you could be fined $50 to $100 for a first offense, and up to $500 for third and subsequent failures.

Further Reading

You can learn about other California laws and regulations related to the environment at our Guide to Laws about the Environment.


Share the Legal Info With Your Friends: