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Santa Barbara County Approaches Business Recycling from Several Angles


While Santa Barbara County’s 69 percent diversion rate was already considerably higher than the state-mandated 50 percent, it sought to divert even more materials from a near-capacity landfill.

Commercial and industrial customers were generating 55 percent of the county’s total waste, but only 30 percent of that was recycled.

In 2003, the county met with various businesses and asked how to encourage more recycling. Business groups urged compulsory recycling as a way to jump-start participation. That year, the county adopted a resolution and implemented protocols to establish mandatory commercial recycling in its unincorporated areas where approximately 1,500 commercial customers are located.

The County of Santa Barbara has three exclusive contracts with haulers for solid waste, recyclables and organic collections. These haulers, as part of their contract, must also provide recycling services. In turn, businesses must subscribe to a recycling service through a franchise waste hauler or self-haul their recyclables. If a business does neither, it is subject to a surcharge equal to 20 percent of the business’s trash collection rate. The haulers are also required as part of their contract to help customers develop a recycling plan and check recycling bins periodically to determine that they contain no more than 25 percent trash. If the threshold exceeds 25 percent, the hauler will work with the business to achieve compliance. Two years after establishing the mandatory commercial recycling program, the county’s diversion rate is increasing at approximately 2 percent a year.

More information about Santa Barbara County’s commerical recycling program is available at

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