Breathe California Sacramento Region Member Spotlight

Food Waste Recycling Program

In California, organic waste including food waste, landscape trimmings, non-hazardous wood waste, and compostable paper, constitutes roughly 40% of waste the State produces (CalRecycle, 2014).  When these materials are diverted to the landfill as waste they are allowed to decompose, producing potent greenhouse gases which contribute to climate change. However, organic waste can be recycled through composting and mulching or converted into renewable energy through anaerobic digestion. In 2014, Assembly Bill 1826 was passed requiring businesses to recycle their organic waste and local jurisdictions across California to establish an organic waste recycling program to collect organic waste from businesses and other significant generators of organic waste in order to divert organic waste in an effort to mitigate contributions to climate change. Schools are among the entities required to recycle organics under AB 1826, and in the Sacramento Region, Breathe California is working to help bring schools in compliance with AB 1826 through its Food Waste Recycling Pilot Program.

Breathe California Sacramento Region

Since 1917, Breathe California Sacramento Region has been promoting to healthy air and preventing lung and other air-pollution related diseases by partnering with youth, advocating public policy, supporting air pollution research, and educating the public. Breathe’s main goals are to address lung health, prevent tobacco, and improve air quality. Breathe is promoting air quality awareness by advocating for electric vehicles, food waste and recycling programs, and pedestrian-friendly land use.

Food Waste Recycling Pilot Program

In partnership with the Sacramento Regional Solid Waste Authority (SWA), Breathe launched the Food Waste Recycling Pilot Program during the 2018-19 school year at ten elementary schools across Sacramento County. At each pilot school, Breathe works alongside school administrators and staff to design and implement food waste recycling programs in their lunchrooms while educating students on how easy and important it is to recycle and diver food waste. This program is heavily focused on equipping schools with the tools and knowledge needed to sustain the program beyond its pilot year by teaching school staff and students how their actions in the lunchroom connect to high-level concepts such as reducing methane gas, reducing landfill waste and helping improve the environment. During the pilot program year, Breathe works with pilot schools to provide: 

  • Training for students and staff
  • Educational materials and supplies for sorting waste in the cafeteria
  • Incentives for students and staff participating in the pilot program
  • On-site technical assistance throughout the pilot program year
  • Share table for students to place items they are not going to consume (milk and packaged items)
Food Waste Recycling Pilot Program objective

The Food Waste Recycling Pilot Program helps bring schools into compliance with California State Law—Assembly Bill 1826. The program also aims to improve air quality by providing schools with resources to help divert organic waste from landfills and reduce methane gas emissions in Sacramento communities. Most notably, the program teaches children the importance and practices of recycling food. 


In addition to partnering with SWA, Breathe partnered with Twin Rivers Unified School District, San Juan Unified School District, and Elk Grove Unified School District to pilot food waste recycling programs at select elementary schools in their districts. Breathe is also partnering with Republic Services, the food waste hauler for Sacramento County school districts, to provide educational assemblies about how to recycle food waste in the lunchroom.

Progress & future goals

California Assembly Bill 1826 requires that commercial waste generators, including schools, producing 4 cubic yards of solid waste per week must arrange for organic waste recycling services by 2019. As more schools implement food waste recycling programs, this pilot program will provide a framework for best practices that future schools and school districts can use to successfully implement and operate food waste recycling programs. The program not only seeks to increase the number of schools recycling food waste, but also foster sustainable programs beyond its pilot year. A “How-To” food waste recycling video has been created for schools to educate their students on how to recycle their food waste at the beginning of every school year and keep the program sustaining.


The Food Waste Recycling Pilot Program is funded by Sacramento Regional Solid Waste Authority (SWA).