Solid waste management is an important function for municipal governments.  For many counties, the management of landfills is a key component.  These management functions fall under the regulatory purview of the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle), which issues permits for a number of solid waste facilities and activities including landfills, transfer stations, and various diversion programs (i.e. composting).  Other state agencies are also extensively involved in the management of solid waste activities, including the State Water Resources Control Board, the Air Resources Board, and the Department of Toxics Substance Control, in addition to regional water quality control boards and local air pollution control districts.

Since the early 1990’s, local governments have been under a mandate to divert at least 50 percent of their materials from landfill disposal.  Legislation enacted in 2012 requires the State to reach a 75 percent source reduced, recycled, or composted goal and mandates commercial recycling.  Senate Bill 1826 (Chesbro, 2014) requires commercial organics recycling beginning in 2016 and a statewide goal of 50 percent organics diversion from landfills by 2020.  As such, CalRecycle monitors and reviews a county’s diversion efforts to ensure various targets are reached and maintained.  Failure to comply with these state rules can result in a variety of penalties.  With the statewide recycling rates recently dropping to 44 percent, CalRecycle is expected to hold jurisdictions to a higher standard of performance.    

To assist rural counties in meeting a myriad of solid waste laws and regulations, the Rural Counties’ Environmental Services Joint Powers Authority (ESJPA) was created.  In addition to the active regulatory and legislative advocacy and technical expertise that ESJPA staff provides, ESJPA Board Meetings offer the opportunity to have state regulatory staff and industry leaders present on current issues.  County staff is able to personally meet, ask questions, and share the rural county perspective with regulators and other experts in the field.  The ESJPA Board Meetings also provide a forum for county solid waste managers to share ideas and work collaboratively to solve common problems.

Staff:   Paul A. Smith and Mary Pitto