How to Comply with the City’s New Mandatory Organics Recycling Law

November 9, 2021 10:50 AM
by Neal Shapiro

Two big events are happening soon, both important to our health and wellbeing: Enjoying Thanksgiving on November 25, 2021 and mandatory organics collection on January 1, 2022. 

How are these two events tied together and good for us? Well, on Thanksgiving, family and friends gather to share a meal and to give thanks for whatever good fortunes and tidings we have had this year; and holiday meals sometimes mean leftovers. Leftovers hopefully for meals in the coming days or weeks. But a lot of this food is put in the trash. Not anymore. Starting January 1st next year, we all are required to recycle all food scraps, along with our yard or green materials, mixed into our green containers. Gone are the days of putting organics in our black trash containers. 

Why the new law? 

While the City sends properly sorted, clean, and dry recyclable materials placed in the blue containers to recycling facilities, the materials discarded in the black trash containers go to landfills and are buried. Over time, most of the landfilled materials, including predominantly food and yard materials or what we call organics, break down and release a gas called methane into the atmosphere. Methane is a major contributor to climate change because it is significantly more potent than carbon dioxide. Therefore, the State of California approved a new law that requires every person in the state to recycle organics into a green container. By diverting organics into our green containers, NOT the black ones, we now will send this valuable reusable resource to a facility which turns it into compost and mulch to revitalize our landscapes and gardens or renewable energy to replace fossil fuel energy. Everyone wins – people and nature! 

How do I get started to meet the January 1, 2022 deadline? 

STEP 1: If you don’t currently have a green organics container (many people do have one already), request one from the City and we’ll get one to you at no additional charge. 

STEP 2: To request an organics container for your property or building, email and provide your name, email address, contact phone number, and your City water, sewer, and trash services utility account number. The person needs to be a responsible party of the City utility bill of the property receiving the green bin, such as property owner, management company representative, or condo association board member or equivalent. 

STEP 3: We will contact you to figure out container size, how many, where it can go, and which day of week for pick-up. 

STEP 4: We will provide educational materials to guide you on what to and what not to recycle in the blue recycling and green organics containers. Additionally, we are available for virtual, in-person, and onsite meetings to discuss how to comply with the new organics recycling law, troubleshoot any challenges, and provide training. 

STEP 5: Once your green container is delivered, now you can begin recycling your organics. Here is how to do it: 

  1. All organics are welcome in the green container. This means ALL food leftovers and scraps, food-soiled paper products (NO wax or plastic coated), yard cuttings, or green landscape materials. 
  2. Collect food materials such as vegetable peels, meat, and eggshells in a small pail or bucket inside your home. To purchase a kitchen compost pail for $15.30 (Nov. 2021 pricing), please email Ideally, place your organics directly into your container without a liner (no bag). If necessary, use multiple paper bags because food soiled paper bags are also considered organics and are recyclable when placed in the green container. Plastic bags -- including some that claim to be “biodegradable” or “made with recycled plastic” -- are not allowed in the green container.
  3. Take collected food materials to your green bin every few days. Pro tip: Keep your food scraps in a reusable bag or container and place it in the freezer for odor control. When ready, dump out the food scraps into your green bin, rinse out the container, and reuse it for the next batch. Note: Green organics containers are not communal; they are building-specific. If you live in multi-family buildings, including apartments or condominiums, you should find your building‘s green bin where the trash and recycling bins are located. Sometimes that could be the building’s central trash enclosure area inside the parking garage; other times it could be in the alley behind your building. Occasionally, some buildings have chutes on each floor that deposit organics directly to the green bin. 
  4. Place yard materials, shredded paper, or shredded cardboard at the bottom of your green bin before placing food scraps, if possible, to absorb moisture. Layer yard materials or paper with food throughout the week before collection day. 

What happens next? 

The organics Santa Monica collects from you will be converted into reusable products including compost, mulch, or renewable energy to power vehicles and buildings. The compost may actually end up back in Santa Monica at a compost giveaway event or in our parks and roadway medians! 

Be proud of yourself for your recycling efforts, as you are making a difference. By recycling your organics, you are contributing to Santa Monica’s zero waste by 2030 goal and a healthier Santa Monica and California! 

If you have any recycling questions or need recycling educational materials, please contact us at We look forward to hearing from you.

Authored By

Neal Shapiro
Senior Sustainability Analyst


Council And Commissions, Priorities And Policies, Services, Trash and Recycling, Your City Hall