The Future of Solid Waste Disposal in Orange County

Planning for solid waste disposal is critical to OC Waste & Recycling’s mission. The department must safeguard the future capacity of the landfills for generations to come; and respond to new, sometimes game-changing regulations. Organic waste diversion and resource recovery are the future of solid waste disposal and management. 

Legislation that’s creating the future

Between 1990, when landmark recycling bill AB939 was passed, and 2017 more than 300 separate solid waste and landfill-related bills were passed by the California legislature and enacted into law. Many of them relate to the State’s goal of diverting 75 percent of waste from the state’s landfills by 2020.

Among the new laws are two far-reaching bills that focus on the diversion of organic waste and food waste. This type of waste comprises 40 percent of Orange County’s waste stream. Targeting this type of waste can make a big difference in meeting the 75-percent goal. Responding to the regulations that define how organic waste diversion is to be accomplished is complex, complicated and challenging. And it is urgent. Milestones for diverting organic waste from Orange County’s landfills are fast approaching.

Reaching the diversion goal of 75 percent by 2020 has placed pressures across the solid waste industry. The cornerstone of CalRecycle’s waste diversion effort relies heavily on moving organic materials out of landfills.

The bills addressing organic waste diversion are recasting the waste industry in California. They represent different approaches to reaching the same goal: Divert organic waste from California’s landfills.

SB 1383 uses methane emissions reduction as the driving force for organic waste diversion and edible food recovery. The two-part bill seeks to reduce organic waste by 75 percent and recover 20 percent of edible food for human consumption by 2025.

AB 1826 launched on January 1, 2017. It calls for mandatory commercial organics recycling. Through incremental implementation, this bill seeks to divert 50 percent of commercial organic waste by January 1, 2020.

Based on OC Waste & Recycling’s recently-completed study of renewable technologies, a range of near-term and long-term renewable technologies were identified that take advantage of Orange County’s landfills as resource recovery facilities.

OC Waste & Recycling is meeting the waste diversion challenge through leadership and collaboration with Orange County’s cities, waste haulers and others to move toward the 75 percent diversion goal.