What Can You Put in the Green Waste Bin in California?

Green compost bins line up on a quiet street

Biodegradable items such as fruit and veggie scraps, yard waste and cardboard add up to half of what Californians throw in the trash. And while you may think that organic material breaks down in the landfill the same as it would in a compost pile, that actually isn’t the case. Organic items require a sufficient amount of oxygen to compost without releasing greenhouse gases. Oxygen they don’t have when piled up and buried in a landfill.

In an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the state has set up the California compost law. As part of landfill waste reduction mandate SB 1383, which was passed in 2016, the compost law is all about managing compostable organic materials in both residential and commercial settings. This includes single-family homes, multi-family complexes and businesses such as grocery stores and restaurants. Every county and municipality in the state is required to have adopted this program by the end of 2024.

If you’re wondering which items the mandate includes, skip ahead for the answer to the question: “What can you put in the green waste bin in California?” Or, read on to learn more about how to handle organic waste disposal in the Golden State.

First up, what exactly is the California compost law and what does it mean for residents?

What’s the California green waste law?

Yard trimmings in a green compost bin

California put a new organic recycling law into effect on January 1, 2022, which mandates that all municipalities in the state implement organic waste collection services. All towns and cities are expected to have organic recycling programs in place by 2024, with fines for non-compliance.

After running a successful food waste pilot program in some cities, all single-family properties, multifamily complexes and businesses state-wide are now required by law to separate all yard trimmings, food scraps and food-soiled paper. Where the organics will end up will differ by municipality, but a few examples of how compost could potentially be used would be donating it to community gardens or selling it back to residents for personal use.



What can you put in the green waste bin in California?

Organic materials come from any living thing, both plant and animal. And while it depends which municipality you live in, generally it’s safe to place these items in your green trash bin in California: fruits, vegetables, bread, pasta, grains, plate scrapings, grass clippings, leaves, twigs and weeds.

Food waste you can put in the California green bin

While you may think you can place any and all food waste into your California green bin, that isn’t always the case. Make sure to check your county or municipality website for any specific items they won’t accept. However, in general the items in the below table are allowed.  

Food Item 


Leftover cooked food

Vegetable scraps

Fruit scraps

Coffee grounds

Coffee filters

Non-nylon tea bags and loose tea leaves

Paper plates

Paper food containers

Pizza boxes

Juice pulp









*Check your county or municipality website as some areas allow these items in the green bin while others do not.



Yard waste you can toss in the green trash bin in California

What exactly is considered yard waste? And what isn’t? The following table will help you to sort the do’s from the do not’s.

Yard Item 


Grass trimmings


Green plants

Tree limbs

Wood chips

Dead plants


Garden trimmings






Animal waste



Other household items that can go into the green bin

You may be surprised to learn that there are some household items, aside from food, that can go into your green trash bin in California. Things like soiled or wet paper products that can’t go into the recycling bin can actually be placed into your green bin. Here is a list of five other household items that can be composted - and three that can’t.

Household Item 


Soiled paper

Soiled cardboard

Soiled tissues 

Soiled paper towels

Indoor plant clippings

Kitty litter and other pet waste


Wax or glossy paper


Diseased indoor plants



Things you should never add to the green bin in California

Green bin filled with food waste

While it’s tempting to wish everything was compostable, that unfortunately isn’t the case. Many common items such as plastic bags and diapers take hundreds of years to break down. Meanwhile, other materials such as treated wood and concrete can introduce harmful toxins into a compost pile.

Here are 10 items you should never add to your green bin.



Plastic bags

Plastic bags are not compostable and take hundreds of years to biodegrade.


Diapers are essentially made of plastic and therefore are not compostable.

Painted or treated wood

Wood that has been painted or treated may contain harmful chemicals.


Styrofoam is another plastic-based material that takes centuries to biodegrade.


Most concrete contains fillers that will not break down and can introduce toxins to the compost.


Though some fabrics, such as cotton, are biodegradable, how they were processed may impact their compostability.  


Rubber products can either be made from synthetic or natural materials, but even natural rubber can take a long time to biodegrade.


Metal is not biodegradable. Depending on your county, you may have a metal recycling center. If the metal is a drink can or food can, it can go into your recyclables.


Items such as bottles, cans and unsoiled cardboard should be placed with recyclables. 

Household hazardous waste (HHW)

Hazardous materials such as batteries, syringes and electronics must be disposed of at HHW safe centers. 


Try Lomi - the easiest way to deal with your food waste in California

Lomi surrounded by plants

If you wish household waste disposal could be easier, with no need to sort your items into bins, leave them on the curb and wait for pickup - Lomi is the answer. An electric composter, Lomi is a powerful kitchen appliance that only requires a small space on your countertop. Sounds too good to be true? Well, it isn’t!

You can put all kinds of organic waste materials in your Lomi. Even things you can’t always place in your green bins such as meat, fish and eggs. And the best part about Lomi is that once you’ve filled it and ran it, you end up with usable, nutrient-rich fertilizer that you can add to your indoor and outdoor plants.

But how does it work? Lomi uses heat, abrasion and oxygen to speed up the decomposition process, breaking down your organic scraps in as little as 3-5 hours. The resulting material from this mode, called Eco Express, can be added to plants. However, if you want to produce a nutrient-dense organic matter, then Lomi’s Grow mode is best. You can also use a third mode - Lomi Approved - to break down approved bioplastics.  


Lomi by Pela



Lomi allows you to turn food waste into plant-ready nutrients in under 24 hours. Boost your plants while reducing your waste.


5 extra resources to help you deal with green waste in California

Want more info on how to deal with organic waste in California? Here are five additional resources to point you in the right direction.

  1. CA Compost Law: A short but helpful article from the California State University Long Beach Legal Resource Center on the reasoning behind SB 1383, plus information on who is expected to comply.

  1. Food Waste in Landfills, Why it Matters and How to Reduce it: Want to learn more about the negative environmental impact of throwing food in the trash? And how much food waste is ending up in landfills? This article has the answers - and they may surprise you.

  1. New Statewide Mandatory Organic Waste Collection: If you live in a multi-family building such as an apartment or townhouse, you may be wondering if you still have to separate your organic waste. This article from CalRecycle explains.

  1. Green Bin Recycling: The sanitation website for the state’s biggest city, Los Angeles, breaks down what kinds of yard trimmings can go into green bins, as well as some important “do not recycle” items.

  1. Zero-Waste Kitchen: Easy Tips, Swaps, and Resources to Get Started: Ready to go zero waste? Composting is an important part of eliminating waste in your kitchen. Read all about the steps you can take to drastically cut down on your household footprint.

Now you know more about the California compost law, hopefully you feel confident in sorting your organic waste. And if you want to go the extra step, why not turn your food scraps and yard trimmings into usable compost on your own. Outdoor composting is a great option if you have the space and the time. If you live in an apartment or just don’t want to deal with the work of an outdoor pile, there are a ton of indoor composting options as well, plus a wide selection of fantastic indoor compost bins.

Want to learn more about why Lomi is the most convenient indoor compost method? Check out what people are saying!

Written by: Larissa Swayze