In 1989, the California legislature enacted a mandate that all cities must reach a recycling rate of 50% by the year 2020. Ahead of schedule, the state of California has announced that they have achieved a 65% “waste diversion” rate. The state government defines waste diversion as any waste that is reduced, recycled, or composted. But some groups, specifically an agency known as CalRecycle, have said that the actual rate is closer to 49% due to the state counting millions of tons of waste as being recycled. For instance, the state counted the use of organic waste as a daily cover for landfills as a recycling program.

Regardless of where the current rate stands, the ongoing drive by the state government may mean more work for its residents. The city of San Diego alone has already achieved a recycling rate as high as 68%, way ahead of the state’s ’89 goal. It also puts it on track to exceed the new goal of 75% by 2020, enacted this year.

Among the proposals for reaching the 75% goal is a plan to provide state funding for the construction of new recycling centers for fiber and food waste. The only problem? California has been making national headlines for its budget problems. And any new construction projects are going to have a hard time getting a slice of the pie.

Other proposals include forcing more companies to recycle their waste, which would include making producers take back their own products when consumers are done with them. Such programs already exist for motor oil, car batteries, tires, and other products. But some vocal groups and individuals feel that these new waste disposal rules would put an unfair burden on companies and individuals who are already recycling well above the state’s standards.

Any new rules will also affect waste management companies who will need to reevaluate their trash collection and disposal services. Any new regulations concerning the disposal of certain kinds of waste means that these companies will have to reroute their trucks based on where the appropriate facilities are in relation to their customers. That would mean big changes for San Diego’s dumpster rental services, as well as its municipal trash collection, even though it already has one of the highest recycling rates in California.

The bottom line is that any further progress in the state’s recycling rates must be gently nudged along. Instead of going all out to reach 75% by 2020, a series of gradual changes to disposal regulations, and increased public awareness of the benefits of recycling are what will keep the momentum going into the next decade.