Oakland Recycles - Your Recycling Team

Laws & Rules

What every business and residence needs to know about city, county and state laws and regulations.

Mandatory Weekly Recycle, Compost, and Trash Removal

Oakland Municipal Code Chapter 8.28 mandates all businesses, multifamily properties and single family homes subscribe to weekly recycle, compost, and trash collection that matches waste generation levels.

  • All recycle, compost and trash discards must be stored in a watertight container(s) of sufficient size and capacity to hold all material between weekly service.
  • It is unlawful for any person to put waste from their business or home in, on top of, or alongside the street litter containers placed in the sidewalk area. Street litter containers are for use by pedestrians depositing small waste carried by them (OMC 8.29.160).
  • It is unlawful for any person to illegally dump or improperly dispose of waste matter (OMC 8.11.310). City, County, and State law mandate waste is sorted properly into recycle, compost, and trash containers.

These codes and laws exist to minimize litter and maximize the use of natural resources and reduce methane emissions that occur when organic material like paper, food scraps, and plant debris are buried in a landfill.

State and Local Recycling and Composting Laws

State law SB 1383 requires everyone in California to keep organic waste like food, plant debris, and cardboard out of the landfill.  The City of Oakland’s 2030 Equitable Climate Action Plan establishes reducing organic material headed to landfill by composting organic waste and increasing the recovery of edible food as key strategies to minimize the acceleration of climate change.  

Alameda County Waste Management Authority will take a lead role in Oakland to enforce compliance with SB 1383 and their Organics Recovery and Recycling Ordinance (ORRO).  Full information on requirements for compliance with ORRO can found here along with resources to help you comply.  

Basic ORRO compliance requirements for businesses/multifamily properties:

Your site must: 

  1. Subscribe to curbside compost and recycle collection service in addition to trash.
  2. Place color-coded and labeled compost and recycle containers next to all indoor trash containers (excluding restrooms).  
  3. Sort materials into the proper carts/bins.  
    1. Compost: Food scraps, compostable paper, and plant debris
    2. Recycle: Cardboard, paper, bottles, and cans 
    3. Trash: Do not place trash into the compost or recycle carts/bins 
  4. Educate employees, contractors, tenants, and students about the law at least annually.  
  5. Periodically inspect bins and provide feedback to employees and contractors about incorrectly placed items. 
  6. Commercial property managers: Inform tenants no later than 14 days after move-in and at least 14 days prior to move-out about the rules. 
  7. Some businesses that generate surplus edible food—such as grocery stores, food distributors, and large restaurants—must have a written agreement with a food recovery organization or service to donate edible surplus food to feed people. 

Tools to Help You:

  1. Contact WMAC to set up trash or compost collection and visit our list of recycle service providers.
  2. Watch a short how to video on setting up compost and recycle containers in your business, use the indoor bin setup guide to assess internal container needs, and request free indoor compost containers.
  3. Request free posters and container decals at oaklandrecycle@oaklandca.gov or create custom signage. Post signage above containers, guiding users on what goes where.
  4. Share this training video at least annually or when on-boarding new staff.

Learn more about edible food recovery requirements and find tools to help with compliance if this requirement applies to your business.

Edible Food Recovery

Donating edible food helps people and our planet!

Under state law SB 1383 and Oakland Municipal Code Chapters 8.28.144 and 8.28.145, certain food-generating businesses in Oakland are required to donate surplus edible food to food recovery organizations. This way, surplus edible food is used to nourish people in our communities instead of being sent to a landfill where harmful greenhouse gas emissions (methane) are generated.  All Oakland businesses with surplus edible food are encouraged to donate excess food even if it’s not required.

Which Oakland businesses need to comply with the food recovery law?

  • Restaurants (>5,000 sq. ft. or 250+ seats)
  • Large supermarkets ($2M+ gross annual sales)
  • Grocery stores (>10,000 sq. ft.)
  • Food service providers
  • Food distributors
  • Wholesale food vendors
  • Large health care facilities (100+ beds)
  • Large hotels (200+ rooms)
  • State agency facilities
  • Public schools
  • Large venues & special events (2,000+ people/day)
How do Oakland businesses comply with the food recovery law?

    1. Find a food recovery organization to partner with by visiting:

    2. Have a written agreement with a food recovery organization to donate surplus                edible food to feed people and maintain monthly food recovery records.

    3. Review additional detailed requirements for compliance by visiting this Alameda          County Waste Management Authority (StopWaste) website:                                                  https://www.stopwaste.org/rules/donate-surplus-food


StopWaste representatives provide free phone, email, virtual, and in-person support to help set up a system to recover and donate surplus edible food. Use this link to request help.

Check out the free Careit app! The app allows businesses to post a donation for pick up or drop off. Nonprofits then reserve and rescue donations to feed nearby communities. Careit auto-generates a liability waiver agreement.

Learn more here: https://careit.com/donors/

Reusable and Disposable Foodware Requirements for Oakland Food Vendors

Food vendors in Oakland must follow certain requirements when:

(1) providing disposable foodware and accessories to customers, and 

(2) allowing customers to use their own reusable foodware.

Who has to follow the foodware requirements?

All Oakland food vendors selling prepared food—including restaurants, cafes, bars, delis, fast-food establishments, and food trucks. All City facilities must also follow these requirements.

What are the foodware requirements?

DISPOSABLE FOODWARE (includes single-use/to-go containers, cups, bowls, utensils, and plates)

For dine-in and take-out orders – Oakland food vendors may only use disposable foodware products that are:

·       Not made of polystyrene foam,

·       Not made of compostable plastics/bio-plastics, and

·       Are free of toxic food packaging chemicals*

*PLEASE NOTE: The City is developing a list of acceptable disposable foodware that is free of toxic food packaging chemicals. The final list will be available on this website. Please check back for updates. Until the list is posted, please ensure your disposable foodware is not made of polystyrene foam or compostable plastic.

If the City determines that there are less than three product options of a particular type of disposable food service ware or that products are not commercially available, a food vendor may use any single-use disposable as long as it is not made of polystyrene or compostable plastics. 

DISPOSABLE FOODWARE ACCESSORIES BY REQUEST (includes single-use straws, stirrers, napkins, utensils, and condiment packets)

For dine-in orders – Oakland food vendors may provide disposable napkins, cocktail sticks, toothpicks, and stir sticks upon customer request only.

For take-out orders – Oakland food vendors may provide disposable straws, napkins, utensils, condiment packets, and other similar accessories upon customer request only.


For take-out orders – Oakland food vendors must accept and fill customer provided reusable cups and containers for to-go orders so long as the customer’s reusables are clean and can hold orders safely.


Beginning July 1, 2025, Oakland food vendors may only serve food using reusables for dine-in service.

StopWaste offers free resources and grants to help businesses switch to reusables for dine-in service.

Check out what’s available by visiting: https://www.stopwaste.org/at-work/reduce-reuse-repair/reducing-disposable-foodware

Concerned about dishwashing space? See a list of reusable foodware system and service providers, checkout StopWaste’s list of reusable foodware vendors.


Beginning July 1, 2025, large event* and large venue** operators will be required to establish a reusable beverage cup system for non-packaged beverages like wine from a bottle, fountain soft drinks, or beer from a keg.

Compliance requirements will be phased in over time. Beginning July 1, 2025, large event and large venue operators must demonstrate to the City that at least 25% of all non-packaged beverages are served from reusable cups. By January 1, 2027, large event and large venue operators must demonstrate to the City that 100% of all non-packaged beverages are served from reusable cups.

Packaged beverages sold to customers, like canned wine, canned beer, and bottled soda, will remain allowable at large events and venues.

*Large events include any indoor or outdoor event within Oakland that is subject to a City permit and is expected to have more than 500 attendees or participants.

**Large venues mean permanent facilities that seat or serve an average of more than 2,000 individuals per day of operations over the calendar year. Large venues include arenas, performing art centers, theaters, and other public attraction facilities.

How are the foodware requirements enforced?

Patrons and inspectors report to the City when they see violations.

Businesses receive a Notice of Violation and may receive a fine of up to $500 for repeated violations.

The problem with compostable plastics

In recent years, consumer demand for more eco-friendly alternatives to conventional plastic single-use disposable foodware has led to a surge in the use of compostable plastics, a type of biodegradable plastic designed to break down into organic matter under specific environmental conditions. Made from both renewable sources like sugar cane and corn as well as fossil fuels, compostable plastics are used to make things like disposable utensils, straws, food scrap bin liners, takeout food containers, and cups. However, increasing awareness and emerging research suggest that compostable plastics can pose human health and environmental risks as well as challenges to waste management programs. 

The majority of composters in California along with Oakland’s compost collector, WM, are unable to process these compostable plastics into finished compost products.  The reality that the compostable plastics do not provide the easy environmental solution they promised is disappointing.  Due to the environmental and health concerns connected to compostable plastics, the City has banned the distribution of single-use disposables made from this material. 

Reusables are the best option for human health and safety and for the environment.

Report Illegal Dumping

Report illegally dumped debris, an active dumper, or ongoing improper use of a street litter receptacle to Environmental Enforcement Officers.

Report Illegal Dumping