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City and County of Sacramento – Commercial Recycling Program to Address Climate Change

Case Story

Climate Action Connection: Commercial Recycling

Programs that require all businesses to establish onsite recycling greatly enhances the amount of recyclables kept out of landfills, thus reducing the potential for green house gases emitted from landfills.

Community:City and County of Sacramento

Population: 51,100


The Sacramento Regional Solid Waste Authority, under a joint powers agreement between the City of Sacramento and Sacramento County, has a business recycling ordinance that requires non-exclusive franchised haulers to provide – and businesses to subscribe to – recycling services.

Program Highlights

  • Haulers must provide recycling services to all commercial customers subscribing to four-cubic yards or more of waste collection services per week.
  • Businesses required to subscribe to recycling services and establish onsite recycling procedures and signage for employees.
  • Haulers must report quarterly on recycling tonnages and ultimate disposition of collected recyclables.
  • The regional authority undertakes heavy education and monitoring of businesses to ensure their compliance.

Lessons Learned

  • Work closely with businesses to help them understand the importance of recycling and to help them establish onsite recycling at their place of business.
  • When undertaking a recycling program geared toward a large number of businesses, start educating the largest businesses first to capture the maximum amount of recyclables earlier in the program.

The Rest of the Story…

The Sacramento Regional Solid Waste Authority (SWA) regulates commercial waste collection services through a joint powers agreement between the City of Sacramento and Sacramento County for businesses within these two jurisdictions. In May of 2007, the SWA adopted a commercial recycling ordinance to greatly expand the amount of recyclables collected from area businesses. The neighboring cities of Rancho Cordova and Citrus Heights have adopted similar ordinances to contribute to a region-wide effort to divert waste from landfills.

Recycling Service Requirements

Haulers must be franchised to operate within the SWA and must provide recycling services to any business that subscribes to four cubic yards or greater of waste collection service per week. In turn, businesses are required to contract for recycling services. Any business, including stand alone stores, restaurants, manufacturers, building owners or office building tenants must separate recyclables in the workplace or be subject to enforcement action by the SWA.

Enforcement and Compliance

To improve compliance, the SWA’s ordinance requires that businesses establish onsite recycling procedures that include education and signage for employees and tenants. Haulers are not held liable for lack of compliance by businesses, but businesses and haulers both are subject to a stiff $1,000 per day fine for failure to comply with their respective responsibilities under the ordinance.

Haulers are required to provide automatic lift containers, bins and roll off bins with locks for recyclables to guard against scavenging. On a quarterly basis, haulers must report their number of commercial customers, tonnage of recyclables collected and the location of the recycling facility where delivered for recycling.

Education Is Key

The SWA recognized the importance of educating businesses on how to establish workplace separation of recyclables for collection by the hauler or independent recycler. To this end, it has prepared extensive educational materials for businesses to educate owners and their employees. These materials include a handbook on recycling for businesses, sample signage for use in the workplace and on recycling containers, tips on how to avoid excess waste, and information on how to communicate workplace recycling requirements to employees.

Compiled May 2009

This case story was prepared in partnership with the California Integrated Waste Management Board.

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