Events & Media

Bren Alumnus Das Williams Authors Legislation to Close Landfill Loophole

Sacramento, Calif. — California Assembly member and Bren School alumnus Das Williams (D-Carpinteria; MESM 2005) wanted to ensure that organic material, such as yard waste, goes back into the earth as nutrients rather than being sent to landfills, so he authored Assembly Bill 1594 to accomplish that.

Das Williams

On Sept. 29, Governor Brown signed the legislation, eliminating a loophole that has given local governments recycling credit for sending yard trimmings and other green waste to landfills. California's Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (Cal Recycle) estimates that recovering organic material through composting and anaerobic digestion can create 14,000 new jobs in the state by 2020.

“Despite California’s robust recycling infrastructure for traditional recyclables like bottles and cans, the state continues to landfill organic materials, like yard trimmings, at an alarming rate,” said Williams.“We need to stop incentivizing this practice.”

Currently, landfill operators are required to apply a daily cover to their landfill. In most cases, they use yard trimmings, because local governments get recycling credit for landfilling the greenwaste. The practice serves as a disincentive to actual recycling, which involves returning the plant material to the soil through composting.

“The use of recovered yard trimmings and other green materials as alternative daily cover at California landfills is the largest single impediment to the development of a robust composting industry in our state and is a significant contributor to greenhouse gas production,” said Bill Camarillo, an executive committee member of the California Compost Coalition and CEO of Agromin, an Oxnard-based company that seeks natural organic solutions for creating soil and energy products. “The expanded use of compost here will not only aid [efforts to reduce global warming], but will enhance the quality of California soils through the introduction of organic matter, preventing soil erosion, reducing the need for chemical fertilizers and pesticides, and enabling water retention at a time when we need it most.”

While California often leads in progressive environmental policy, prior to passage of AB 1594, it was one of the only states in the U.S. to allow green waste to be used as landfill cover and the only state to count that cover material as "diverted." Nearly half the states in the country have banned the landfilling of green waste altogether.