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Promoting Local Jurisdiction Use of Compost and Mulch in Municipal Projects

Promoting Local Jurisdiction Use of Compost and Mulch in Municipal Projects

The purpose of this information is to inform you of CalRecycle’s web enhancements in support of AB1826.   

·         This information was developed for City and County Recycling Coordinators that need tools to help promote the purchase of compost and mulch within their government operations staff. 

·         These enhancements include webpages focused on how local governments are using compost/mulch locally.   

Following are key links to the new information.  

If you have any questions, feel free to contact your Local Assistance and Market Development liaison.   

Organics for Recycling Coordinators   

Using compost and mulch. What is compost, what is mulch, and how do you use them? What kind of benefits can you expect from using compost and mulch? From this page you can find examples of compost and mulch in use in urban landscapes and on the farm, fact sheets about compost use, purchasing specifications, information about lawn removal rebates, and more.  

Model Source Reduction and Recycling Element (SRRE ) Identification of Market Development Activities. Each city, county and regional solid waste agency is required, in their SRRE document, to identify activities they will undertake to develop infrastructure for recycling as well as markets for products made from recycled materials, including compost and mulch. CalRecycle’s Local Assistance and Market Development branch helps local governments implement this long-standing part of California solid waste law.  

Organics Toolbox


As part of the Organics Policy Roadmap, this Organics Toolbox explores how local jurisdictions in California are implementing policies related to compost and mulch use. This toolbox is a clearinghouse and will serve as a collection of model tools from cities throughout the state, CalRecycle, and other sources. We will continue to place new information on this site as it becomes available.  

What’s Included in this Toolbox?  

Examples include benefits of compost use, case studies, compost guidelines and specifications, contract mechanisms, directories, environmentally preferable purchases and practices policies, fees, marketing plans, model ordinances, and resources. To navigate this toolbox, use the links on the menu below. 

Benefits of Compost Use   

·         Compost and Its Benefits (PDF, 150 KB). The U.S. Composting Council website provides a fact sheet summarizing the many physical, chemical, and biological benefits of compost.

·         Compost Products used on Fire-Damaged Land. A CalRecycle webpage about the use of compost products on fire-damaged land.

·         Compost Use for Landscape and Environmental Enhancement Manual. A CalRecycle manual with information on compost use in landscape plantings and environmental applications.

·         Demonstration Projects. CalRecycle demonstration projects that promote waste prevention and recycling of organic matter in partnership with local governments, compost producers, and users of compost and mulch.  

Compost Guidelines/Specifications  

·         Bay-Friendly Landscape Guidelines. Presented as a public service by the Alameda County Waste Management and Recycling Board, these guidelines provide a whole systems approach to the design, construction, and maintenance of landscapes to support the integrity of a San Francisco Bay Area watershed.

·         Caltrans Compost Specifications. The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) website has resources for project managers including specifications, publications, compost calculators, and event schedules.

·         Guidelines for Writing Compost or Mulch Procurement Specification. These CalRecycle guidelines provide assistance to State and local agency representatives in developing specifications for purchasing compost or mulch.  


·         Facility Information Toolbox (FacIT). The CalRecycle FacIT provides an inventory of California’s solid waste handling, recycling, market infrastructure, and a capacity projection model. The facility inventory includes primary processors (transfer stations, materials recovery facilities, compost facilities, etc.) and secondary processors (recycled feedstock producers, recycled product manufacturers, etc.), emerging technology facilities, disposal facilities, and some primary collection facilities. 

·         Locating Compost and Mulch Facilities for Commercial Projects. A list of compost and mulch producers.  

Environmentally Preferable Purchases (EPP) and Practices Policy  

·         Alameda County Waste Management Authority

o    EPP Model Policy and Guidelines. Alameda County’s policy was adopted to conserve natural resources and increase the use and availability of environmentally preferable products that protect the environment.

o    EPP Implementation Guidance. A supplement to the EPP Model Policy with additional guidance on writing specifications.

·         Los Angeles County (PDF, 78 KB) Los Angeles County’s EPP Policy establishes the framework for an environmentally based purchasing program.

·         San Jose. City of San Jose’s EPP policies that protect the environment through sustainable purchasing choices.  

Model Ordinances  

·         Alameda County (PDF, 153 KB). An ordinance prohibiting the disposal of certain recyclable and compostable materials from its landfills.

·         San Diego. The City of San Diego’s mandatory recycling ordinance prohibits mixing compostable organic materials and specific recyclables (e.g., paper, corrugated cardboard, appliances etc.) with refuse, prior to refuse collection. The Miramar Greenery accepts green and food materials and produces mulch and compost that are sold commercially and are available to the public.

·         San Francisco’s Mandatory Recycling and Composting Ordinance. Requires all residents and businesses to separate recyclable, compostable and waste material. Residents and businesses are required to subscribe to adequate trash, recycling and composting service. Residents are allowed to place food waste in their green waste bins. The mixed organic materials are hauled to Recology composting sites in Solano and Stanislaus counties.

·         San Jose (PDF, 136 KB). An ordinance that offers incentives for non-Alternative Daily Cover diversion.

·         Santa Cruz County. Enacted a landfill ban in 2005 to save space in the Buena Vista landfill and recover valuable materials. The ordinance prohibits the disposal of a wide variety of materials at the County’s landfill or transfer station. The County provides recycling options for all banned materials at these sites. Recyclable materials banned from disposal include:

o    Yard waste and wood waste

o    Tires

o    Major appliances and mattresses

o    All types of paper and cardboard

o    Rigid plastic containers of resins 1-7

o    Concrete, asphalt, tile and gypsum

o    Electronics, and

o    Metal cans and scrap metal

·         Sonoma County. Has enacted a landfill ban for specified recyclable materials. Fines of up to $500 and even jail time up to 6 months are possible for violations. Recycling options are available at the landfill and transfer stations for all specified materials. Sonoma County code Section 22-7A states that no person shall dispose of any of the following recyclable materials at any disposal area within Sonoma County, including:

o    Yard debris or wood debris

o    Major appliances

o    Corrugated cardboard

o    Electronics

o    Scrap metal, and

o    Tires

·         The Department of Water Resources (DWR). The DWR’s Model Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance mandating that local agencies, not later Jan. 1, 2010, must adopt the revised model ordinance or equivalent or it will be automatically adopted by statute. Compost has been included, if used as a mulch, for water conservation.

Several enhancements and additions to webpages have been completed under the Organic Materials Management web http://www.calrecycle.ca.gov/organics/ including a new tab titled Compost and Mulch.  

GovernmentAgencies: Procurement

·         Locating Compost and Mulch Facilities

·         Purchasing Compost and Mulch  

 Purchasing Compost & Mulch  

Compost and mulch is purchased by homeowners, farmers, landscapers and government agencies. There are many outlets to purchase compost and mulch in California. The most convenient for small scale may be a nursery or home center. For large scale purchases, landscape supply centers, soil blenders or compost and mulch producers deliver large quantities of material.  

To locate a compost and mulch facility, CalRecycle maintains a compost and mulch producer search tool with which to search by county.  

Please note that most compost producers also produce mulch. As a point of information, not all compost is of the same quality. To help inform potential buyers, CalRecycle provides information designed to assist buyers in assessing product quality.  

State and local government agencies can develop procurement programs that will create new and expanded markets for compost and mulch products. To aid their efforts, CalRecycle has created guidelines for writing compost or mulch procurement specifications. CalRecycle's State Agency Buy Recycled Campaign works with State agencies to increase their procurement of all types of recycled-content products, including compost and mulch.  

Benefits of Using Compost and Mulch  

·         California Master Gardener Program (PDF, 2 MB)

·         United States Compost Council: Compost and Its Benefits (PDF, 150 KB)  

Procurement-Related Resources  

·         Frequently Asked Questions

·         Guidelines for Writing Compost or Mulch Procurement Specifications

·         Compost/Mulch Source List

·         Assessing Product Quality

·         State Agency Buy Recycled Campaign

·         Recycled-Content Product Database  

Government Compost Program Case Studies  

·         Avenal State Prison: Food Scrap and Green Material Collection (443-02-016)

·         Cal Poly San Luis Obispo: Food Scrap and Green Material (443-02-018)

·         City of Burbank: Green Material Collection Program (443-02-017) 

·         City of Los Angeles: Green Material and Manure Compost Demonstration Project (443-02-020)

·         City of Modesto: Public Compost Production Program Study (443-02-021)

·         Folsom State Prison: Food Scraps and Green Material (443-02-019)  

Related Links  

·         U.S. Composting Council 

·         III. If you need to explain to a colleague the benefits of using compost and mulch in your jurisdiction’s projects here is helpful information at http://www.calrecycle.ca.gov/Organics/CompostMulch/BenefitsOf.htm:  

Benefits of Compost  

How Does Compost Help Improve Soil Conditions?  

·         Soil Amendment

·         Water-Holding Capacity and Drought Conservation

·         Erosion Control

·         Soil Organic Matter

·         Greenhouse Gas Emissions

·         Healthy Soils

·         Soil Carbon Sequestration   

IV. If you have a colleague that needs basic education about what compost and mulch is here is a great resource:


Compost and Mulch  

·         What is Compost?

·         What is Mulch?

·         Where and How to Buy Compost and Mulch




Revised:  ‎3‎/‎29‎/‎2018