California Agencies Finally Join State Diversion Effort

Beginning this year, state agencies in California will have to chip-in to assist the state's waste diversion efforts.

State Assembly Bill 75 (AB 75) will require state agencies - the California Department of Transportation (CalTrans), state universities, community colleges, Department of Corrections Facilities (DOC) and other agencies - to reduce 25 percent of their waste by January 2002 and 50 percent by January 2004.

"AB 75 will finally mandate state agencies to do what the state has already mandated for local jurisdictions," says Dan Eaton, chairman of the California Integrated Waste Management Board, Sacramento

California cities and counties are required to reduce their waste by 50 percent by January 2001 compared to 1990 levels, but no such mandate existed for state agencies.

"As a large institution, we generate a lot of refuse. We should lead by example to help solve the diversion problem in California," says Waste Board Information Officer Chris Peck.

To help state agencies meet the 50 percent goal, the Waste Board approved a model plan that includes forms and worksheets to guide them in their efforts. State agencies are required to file their waste diversion plan by July 15.

"This [plan] will give agencies a road map in order to reduce, reuse and recycle," Eaton says.

The plan provides a list of possible source reduction programs - everything from recycling and composting to using recyclable cups and electronic forms. The plan also requires agencies to list projected and actual waste tonnages, promotional programs and other activities.

State agencies are encouraged to share "success stories" that eventually could be used as pilot programs.

Any state agency that has fewer than 200 employees and generates less than 100 tons of waste per year can submit a modified waste plan.

By joining the refuse diversion effort, state agencies will help the cities and counties meet their goals, Eaton notes.

If state agencies dispose of refuse at a local facility, the waste is counted toward that city or county's tonnage, which makes it harder for those local governments to reach the 50 percent goal if state agencies aren't doing their part, he says.

Cities and counties that fail to meet the 50 percent diversion level by the end of this year will be given an extension if they can prove a good faith effort was made to meet the goal, Peck adds.

Grants and technical assistance will be targeted toward agencies that have the potential to divert the most waste.

Eaton notes that diversion programs throughout the state already have helped reduce waste by 37 percent compared to 1990 figures.

"I think it's been a great success," Peck says.

To further boost diversion rates, the Waste Board also plans to push for a bill that would require school districts to join the waste diversion effort.