Business Recycling in Densely-Populated Areas

Commercial Recycling

The Solid Waste Ordinance was updated as of June 4, 2021 for the unincorporated areas of San Diego County. The Solid Waste Ordinance incorporates state laws regarding recycling (AB 341), organics recycling (AB 1826 and  SB 1383), engaging customers (AB 827), and food donation (SB 1383).

Recycling requirements differ for the densely- and sparsely- populated areas of the unincorporated county. Based on census tract data, densely-populated areas include larger communities such as Spring Valley, Lakeside, Ramona, Fallbrook, etc., while sparsely-populated areas include smaller communities such as Campo, Boulevard, Warner Springs, Ranchita, etc. Click here to determine which area your business is located. 

This page details how businesses in the densely-populated areas can remain compliant with local and State laws, if your business is in the sparsely-populated area please visit this  page. Free resources available to all businesses in the unincorporated county are outlined below (as supplies allow).

Commercial Properties in the densely-populated areas must separate materials on their premises and arrange for recycling of the following materials-

Designated Recyclable Materials:

  • Aluminum
  • Glass Bottles & Jars
  • Cardboard & Paper Products
  • Rigid Plastics (#1-#7)
  • Tin & Bi-Metal Cans
  • Large Appliances

Organic Materials:

  • Yard Trimmings
  • Nonhazardous Wood Waste
  • Food Scraps and Food Soiled Paper

Commercial properties must:

  • Meet the County’s minimum diversion service level ratio of 35%. This means at least 35% of the weekly container capacity to be available for recyclables and organic materials.
    • The container capacity is measured in cubic yards or space in the carts or dumpsters available for solid waste, recyclable materials, and organic materials. 
    • A County Recycling Specialist or your Franchise Hauler can assist you in right sizing your waste service.
  • Provide containers for employees and customers that are properly labeled and match the color(s) of their collection containers. All trash containers for customers must be co-located with recycling containers (except in restrooms).
    • Full-service restaurants are not required to have bins for customers but must have bins for staff.
  • Provide education for new hires.
  • Train and educate employees annually on proper material sorting.
  • Prohibit employees from placing materials in wrong containers.
  • Inspect containers for contamination and re-educate employees.
  • Accommodate inspections/monitoring by the County or its designee.
  • Require in contract that gardeners and/or landscapers recycle green materials and wood waste if total waste generation is greater than or equal to 2 cubic yards per week.
  • Comply with surplus edible food recovery requirements if identified as a Tier 1 or Tier 2 commercial edible food generator.

How do I Comply?

Generators may demonstrate compliance by:

  • Subscribing to a 3-stream collection service with a non-exclusive franchise hauler, or contract with a Certified Recyclable Materials Collector for certain materials. 
  • Self-hauling materials. Registration with the County is required. Contact for information.
  • Providing appropriate containers for customers and staff.
  • Maintaining records:
    • Employee training
    • Landscaping contracts (if applicable)
    • Edible food donation contracts and records (if applicable)

Noncompliance is subject to an Administrative Citation with escalating penalties. 

Waivers from Service Requirements

Commercial properties may apply for waivers from recycling and/or organics service requirements when de minimis generation occurs, if there are physical space constraints, and/or if all organic materials generated are managed on-site. Learn more about waivers here. 

Learn more about how your business can implement a successful recycling program with the following tools and resources:

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Recycling Programs


Have a recycling question? Email or call: