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Mandatory Recycling and Organics Law: Businesses and Nonprofits

Starting January 2022, all California businesses will be required to compost organic waste properly. The law aims to reduce harmful methane emissions from landfills that contribute to climate change and global warming.

Please visit Cal Recycle's website for more information on the new law.

How do I comply?

NOTE: if you received a Courtesy Notice of Violation from the City of San Rafael don't panic! You have two easy ways to comply. Please contact Marin Sanitary Service and they'll help you through the process to get an exemption or signed up for minimum service. Representatives are available at (415) 456-2601, Monday through Friday, between 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Choose Commercial Multifamily Services.

The easiest way is to subscribe to composting service with Marin Sanitary Service!

If you are enrolling in MSS's organics service for the first time, your business is eligible to receive up to $600 in free indoor compost bins. Please visit our Free Indoor Composting Bin Program page for more information, the application will remain open till May 1st, or until supplies last.

Eligible food service businesses may want to participate in the Food to Energy Program instead. The program takes food waste from participating local restaurants and grocery stores and converts the material into a bio-gas through anaerobic digestion. For more information about the program, check out the Marin Sanitary Service website.

Can I be exempt?

Check the chart below to see if you qualify for an exemption. If you think you may qualify, please fill out this waiver form and submit it to Marin Sanitary Service. If you have questions or need help filling out the form, please contact an MSS Recycling Coordinator at (415) 456-2601.”

Amount of waste your business* generates

(Garbage and recycling combined) is:

Threshold to Qualify for a Minimal Generation Waiver:
Less than 2 cubic yards of total weekly refuse service And generate no more than 10 gallons of compostable/organic waste or recyclables per week
2 or more cubic yards of total weekly refuse service And generate no more than 20 gallons of compostable/organic waste or recyclables per week

*Note, multifamily properties are not eligible for these waivers.

Picture of compost

How does this new state law affect my business or non-profit?

Every business and nonprofit agency in California must abide by the following rules based on the new state law. (If your business sells or produces food, you may have additional responsibilities; please see them below).

  • Subscribe to curbside compost and recycling collection service in addition to garbage
  • Place color-coded and labeled compost and recycling containers next to all indoor garbage containers (excluding restrooms)
  • Sort materials into the proper bins
  • Educate employees, contractors, about the law at least annually
  • Periodically inspect bins and provide feedback to employees and contractors about incorrectly placed items

My business sells food, what are the additional requirements?

Businesses that generate excess edible food, must contract with a food recovery organization to donate it. By the dates listed below, these entities must:

  • Recover the maximum amount possible of surplus edible food generated
  • Partner with one or more food recovery organizations or services to pick up or receive your surplus edible food
  • Have a written contract or agreement with the food recovery organization(s) or service(s)
  • Track and maintain records of food recovered each month including type, frequency of collection and amounts in pounds
Deadline for compliance Type of entity
January 1st, 2022
  • Wholesale food vendor, a business or establishment engaged in the merchant wholesale distribution of food, where food (including fruits and vegetables) is received, shipped, stored, prepared for distribution to a retailer, warehouse, distributor, or other destination
  • Food service provider, an entity primarily engaged in providing food services to institutional, governmental, commercial, or industrial locations of others based on contractual arrangements with these types of organizations
  • Food distributor, a company that distributes food to entities including, but not limited to, supermarkets and grocery stores
  • Grocery and supermarkets over 10,000 sq ft or revenue of more than $2 million
January 1st, 2024
  • Hotels with an on-site food facility and over 200+ rooms
  • Restaurant facilities over 5,000 sq ft or 250+ seating capacity
  • Health facilities with an on-site food facility and over 100 beds
  • State agency cafeterias with over 5,000 sq ft or 250+ seats
  • Local education facilities with an on-site food facility
  • Large venue, a permanent venue facility that annually seats or serves an average of more than 2,000 individuals within the grounds of the facility per day of operation of the venue facility. A venue facility includes, but is not limited to, a public, nonprofit, or privately owned or operated stadium, amphitheater, arena, hall, amusement park, conference or civic center, zoo, aquarium, airport, racetrack, horse track, performing arts center, fairground, museum, theater, or other public attraction facility
  • Large event, an event, including, but not limited to, a sporting event or a flea market, that charges an admission price, or is operated by a local agency, and serves an average of more than 2,000 individuals per day of operation of the event, at a location that includes, but is not limited to, a public, nonprofit, or privately owned park, parking lot, golf course, street system, or other open space when being used for an event

Consider taking the steps suggested at the following web pages to reduce food waste:

Food Recovery Organizations

The City of San Rafael has identified the following food recovery organizations businesses may contract with to be in compliance:

Organization  Contact Information Donation type
SF Food Bank Website Large volume donations
Extra Food Website Prepared foods, smaller volume
Ritter Center Website Prepared foods, smaller volume
Salvation Army Website Prepared foods, smaller volume
Open Door Ministries Website Prepared foods, smaller volume
Copia Website Prepared foods, smaller volume
Replate Website Prepared foods, smaller volume



Frequently Asked Questions

If you can eat it, you can compost it! Remember that almost all organic materials are compostable, not only food waste. See below for examples of what to put in your composting bin:

  • Food and food scraps such as fruit, vegetables, meat, bones, shells, dairy, and leftovers
  • Plant material such as grass, flowers, leaves, branches, and wood
  • Food-soiled paper such as paper towels, napkins, and delivery pizza boxes

What can you compost?

Please visit the Marin Sanitary Service website for a complete list of what should be put into your compost bin.

Marin’s local compost facility WM Earthcare produces high-quality compost to grow organic food. Which is why we CANNOT accept any plastics labeled as compostable or bio-degradable because they take twice as long to break down when compared to natural compostable materials.

Please DO NOT put any of the following items in your green cart for compost:

  • NO compostable or bio-degradable plastics, bags, cups, containers, and utensils
  • NO diapers, pet waste, human waste, and poison oak

What not to compost

Please remember to pay close attention to what you place in the binNot everything labeled compostable can be composted. For more tips, visit the Marin Sanitary Service website and use the “Where does it go, Joe?” tool. Even a small amount of trash in the compost bin means all the material goes to waste!

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