Note: Disposal includes total landfill in state and total exported tons reported at the time but does not include transformation. Source: CalRecycle and California Air Resources Board, California Greenhouse Gas Inventory - by Sector and Activity. Analysis by Beacon Economics.
  • Californians have been disposing an increasing amount of waste in landfills since 2012. Californians exported or sent 39.9 million tons of waste to landfills in 2021, up 1.5 million tons from the 38.4 million in 2020, but down 2.7 million tons compared to 42.6 million in 2019. This is the same amount of waste exported as in 2018 (39.9 million tons). The increasing amount of waste sent to landfills also means California’s recycling rate has been falling since 2014. The recycling rate was 40 percent in 2020,23 down from 42 percent in 2021 but up 3 percent from the 37 percent in 2019. This represents just little over half of the 75 percent recycling rate goal defined by AB 341.24 The increase in disposables sent to landfill did not directly impact landfill emissions. In 2021, landfill emissions (as part of the included emissions) reached 8.0 MMTCO2e, down 2.0 percent compared to 2020 as the pandemic led to an increase in one-time use disposables, but up slightly by 0.1 percent compared to 2019. Landfill emissions from biogenic materials25 were 7.9 MMTCO2e in 2021, up 0.3 percent compared to 2020 and up 3.9 percent from 2019 as a left-over effect from the increase during pandemic. Landfill emissions from biogenic materials increased by 3.6 percent year-over-year in 2020. The increase in landfill emissions from biogenic materials in 2021 could also be a result of the previous year’s increase. Changes in waste management practices or increases in waste generation often have a lagged impact on emissions.

23 CalRecycle. State of Disposal and Recycling and Exports in California for Calendar Year 2021. December 2022. Assessed Feb 6, 2024. Retrieved from:

24 California Legislative Information. AB-341 Solid waste: diversion. Retrieved from:

25 Biogenic materials, which are organic in nature, can produce methane gas as they decompose in landfills.