Californians have been disposing of an increasing amount of waste in landfills since 2012 with the exception of 2020. The state exported or sent to landfills 38.4 million tons of waste in 2020, a significant decrease of 4.2 million tons compared to 2019, when it increased by 2.7 million tons over 2018. The increasing amount of waste sent to landfills also means California’s recycling rate had been falling since 2014—until it increased in 2020. The recycling/composting rate was 42 percent in 2020, up from 37 percent in 2019, which is the same rate it was in 2017. In 2011, the state set a goal for a 75 percent recycling rate by 2020. While the goal was not met, the 2020 rate is more than halfway toward that goal.34 This is particularly notable as single-use plastics and cardboard box usage for online shopping increased in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The increase in disposables sent to landfills leads to an increase in landfill emissions. In 2020, landfill emissions (as part of the included emissions) reached 8.5 MMTCO2e (up 1.3% compared to 2019), and landfill emissions from biogenic materials were 8 MMTCO2e (up 1% compared to 2019).
34 State of Disposal and Recycling and Exports in California for Calendar Year 2020 (DRRR-2020-1697). CalRecycle. https://www2.calrecycle.ca.gov/Publications/Details/1706