A wide angle view of a garbage truck dumping into a landfill.

New Zero Waste Policies in California


This September, amidst record-breaking heat waves throughout California and energy shut-offs, Governor Gavin Newsom has signed numerous climate and zero waste policies into law, with many more awaiting his approval. California is setting precedent by approving “a record $54 billion in climate spending”, according to the New York Times


Gov. Gavin Newsom, often regarded as a climate leader, continues his fight against waste, which began in San Francisco during his mayoral reign. With support from organizations such as Californians Against Waste (CAW) and ReThink Waste, Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed into law three new zero waste policies, with eight more waiting for approval.

Zero Waste Policies SIGNED INTO LAW:

1. AB 1985 Organic Waste

California Assembly Bill 1985 will require The California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) to create and maintain a list of places where governments can send their organic waste. The law requires CalRecycle to update the list every six months. The goal is to meet the 2016 organic waste diversion goals: 50% capture of organics by 2020 and 75% by 2025. These goals will reduce methane emissions and short-lived climate pollutants in the atmosphere. The bill also promotes food donations, mandating, “not less than 20% of edible food that is currently disposed of be recovered for human consumption by 2025”.

hands holding soil with compostable food scraps in the background/left side of the image.

2. AB 1857 Waste Incineration Reform

California Assembly Bill 1857 updated California’s diversion credit to exclude waste incineration as a diversion method. Incineration previously received a 10% credit. AB 1857 removes this credit and redefines incineration as disposal. The bill will also require CalRecycle to certify that municipalities have prioritized all possible source reduction, recycling, and composting options before approving new permits for new incinerators and landfills in communities. The bill provides funding for increased zero waste infrastructure and programs for the communities most impacted by landfills and incinerators. 

3. SB 1215 / AB 2440 Battery Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) 

California State Bill 1215 and Assembly Bill 2440 will create the collection and recycling of highly hazardous used batteries. The programs will include free and easily accessible collection bins at retail locations across California by June 30, 2025. All loose common household batteries are included for collection. The bills also require producers of such battery types to create, pay, and assist in implementing the program.

Spotlight: Zero Waste Policies UP FOR REVIEW

The following proposed policies are awaiting approval from Gov. Gavin Newsom. 

1. SB 1046 – Ban on Non-Compostable Plastic Bags 

This bill bans the distribution of plastic pre-checkout produce bags unless they are reusable, recyclable, or compostable 

2. SB 1013 – Include Wine and Distilled Spirits in California’s Bottle Bill 

SB 1013 expands the bottle bill to include wine and distilled spirit bottles. This will increase recycling goals and reduce disposal to landfill, lessening environmental pressures from mining industries to create new products.

3. AB 2638 – Water Refill Stations in Schools 

This bill requires new construction or updating existing infrastructure to include one or more water bottle refill stations at schools.  

A closeup of a young child drinking water from a reusable bottle.


As the fifth largest economy in the world, California is leading the way in promoting circular economy policies and zero waste systems. Organizations are advocating for such changes, including R20W. With increasing climate damage occurring worldwide, it is imperative to push such policies into law. 


Support the Race to Zero Waste and vote in favor of zero waste bills in your area! You can use LegiScan to see which bills are being proposed in your state. 


This post was written by R20W Outreach Coordinator Daniella Menendez.

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