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City of Fresno – Commercial Recycling Program to Address Climate Change

Case Story

Climate Action Connection: Commercial Recycling

Mandatory recycling, combined with tiered rate structure, results in increased recycling by the commercial sector, thus reducing potential greenhouse gas emissions from landfills.

Community:Fresno (Fresno County)

Population: 490,000


Fresno’s mandatory commercial recycling ordinance requires all retail, office and multi-family businesses to utilize the city’s recycling services.

Program Highlights

  • All businesses are required to use the solid waste and recycling services provided directly by the city.
  • Tiered pricing, which makes recycling less expensive, is an incentive for businesses to recycle.
  • City actively educates businesses about recycling service and importance.

Lessons Learned

  • Businesses recycle more if the program is mandatory, as opposed to voluntary.
  • A tiered rate structure with lower costs for recycling services significantly increases recycling by businesses.

Resources to Learn More

  • Fresno Mandatory Recycling Ordinance (available at right under “Documents and Resources.”
  • Zero Waste Action Plan

The Rest of the Story…

Although Fresno offered voluntary recycling services to commercial customers in 2000, most were not taking advantage of the opportunity to recycle. Thus, the city re-evaluated its commercial recycling program. 

Mandatory Program Increased Recycling

The goal of Fresno’s new commercial recycling ordinance adopted in 2005 was to increase the city’s overall diversion rate by increasing the amount of recycling by the 6,000 businesses (including multi-family complexes) in the city. When commercial recycling became mandatory, the citywide recycling rate increased dramatically.

Prior to enacting the mandatory commercial ordinance, Fresno’s citywide diversion rate for residential and commercial users was 32 percent; after the mandatory commercial recycling ordinance was adopted, the diversion rate climbed to 62 percent. City officials attribute the increase in the diversion rate largely to the increase in recycling in the commercial sector, which includes retail, office, and multi-family generators.

City’s Tiered Commercial Rate Structure

Fresno provides trash, green waste and recycling services itself and actively educates businesses about recycling opportunities and potential cost savings. Different container sizes are available for commercial recycling, and business may have daily pickup if desired. The city has a two-tiered rate for disposal and recyclable pickup. As of July 2008, the cost of a 4-cubic yard container for weekly solid waste pick up is $1,258, while the cost of the equivalent size container and service for recycling is $344 per week. The price differential is considered the biggest incentive for businesses to recycle.

Compiled May 2009

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


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