Green Waste FAQs

Q: What happens to the contents of our green bin?

A: Once collected by LA Sanitation (LASAN) crews, the content of your green bin is delivered to a processing facility that converts your yard trimmings into a re-usable product such as mulch or compost. Approximately 20% of the collected yard trimmings is processed in LASAN owned and operated composting facilities. The remaining 80% green material is processed by contract vendors.


The processing method used consists of composting in the presence of oxygen. In general, the processing steps consist of:

  1. Clean contaminants
  2. Reduce the particle size of feedstock
  3. Build compost piles (compost only)
  4. Compost for 30-60 days
  5. Screen end product
  6. Deliver product to the end user


For a photographic documentary of the City's composting operations, please follow this link.


Q: Does LASAN only process yard trimmings into compost?

A: A wide range of materials may be composted, but they must consist of principally organic components (i.e. carbon-containing remnants or residues of life processes).  Compostable material is organic in content and is commonly referred to as feedstock.


The following feedstocks are used in LASAN's composting program:

  • Yard trimmings
  • Wood chips
  • Horse manure
  • Zoo herbivore animal manure mixed with bedding
  • Biosolids


As it is evident, some feedstocks contain more organic materials than others.


LASAN produces four different yard care products for use in the home garden or in farms. Each product may contain one or more of these feedstocks, giving each product a different physical and chemical quality that makes it most appropriate to different beneficial applications.


The following yard care products are produced through LASAN's composting program:


Q: What is compost; and what is the difference between compost and mulch?

A: Mulch is a soil covering used to control weeds and/or erosion; retain moisture in soil, and insulate soil from hot/cold/dry/windy weather. Mulch is also used for aesthetic purposes. Biodegradable materials commonly used for mulch include wood chips, ground up landscape trimmings, shredded bark, coarse compost material, straw, and shredded paper. Biodegradable mulch will eventually breakdown and will need to be reapplied. Mulch can also be non-organic, such as crushed concrete and brick, stones and gravel, lava rock, and plastic film.


Compost is a stable, decomposed organic matter resulting from the aerobic or anaerobic decomposition of organic material under controlled conditions. The controlled conditions include moisture, temperature and the presence (or absence) of air. The use of compost as a soil amendment is excellent for improving soil structure, fertility, moisture holding capacity, and root growth. A good quality compost product has matured and stabilized and will have a dark crumbly texture with a mild odor. 


Compost is not a soil, and should not be used exclusively in pots or planters to grow plants. Compost mixed with soil is the best medium for healthy plants to grow in.


All our yard care products are composted, with the exception of the TOPGROTM Ground Yard Trimmings. Our TOPGROTM  Ground Yard Trimmings is the only product which should only be used as mulch on the soil surface. This product is only available to large end-users (the minimum volume order is 70 CF). 


Q: What is an STA certification and why is it desirable to look for the STA certification seal in compost/mulch products?

STA Image

A: The STA program is a nationwide industry specific non-profit organization with the goal of educating consumers on the use and selection of compost products and the standardization of sampling and testing methods across the industry. By standardizing these methods, the consumer can compare products knowing that STA certified products must follow the same sampling and testing methods as other STA certified products, this allows the potential user to compare directly each competing product (comparing "apples to apples"). 


Three of our yard care products are registered with the U.S. Compost Council under their STA program. Each of our STA certified product is identified with this logo. A more detailed discussion of the STA program as well as the most recent soil test results for our STA certified products are available here.


Q: How can I get some of these products and how much will it cost me?

A: TOPGROTM  Mulch STA logo is available free to anyone who would like to pick it up in bulk from any of our Give-Away Sites located throughout the City. A current list of our locations is available here.


TOPGROTM Premium Soil Amendment and TOPGROTM Soil Amendment are available free in limited quantities at only one Give-Away Site. You must bring your own shovel and container to pick up the material.

If any locations run out of mulch, or you want to know the delivery schedule, please call the Lopez Canyon Environmental Center at 818-485-0703.

For the convenience of the general public, all three products are also pre-packaged in 1.5 cubic feet bags. Each bag weighs approximately 25 pounds and are available at the Lopez Canyon Environmental Center.


Large users may buy a minimum of 70 CF of the TOPGROTM Premium Soil Amendment STA logo and the TOPGROTM Soil Amendment STA logo


Q: How can I determine which is the best product to use? Compost vs. mulch.

A: The best way we can help you determine what LASAN product is best for your garden requires helping you understand what each product can do for your garden. The following table QUICK GUIDE TO PRODUCT SELECTION will help match typical gardening needs to our products. Once you've determined which product meets your gardening needs, you can refer to the PRODUCT DESCRIPTION AND AVAILABILITY table to find availability information for your selected product.


There are many guides available designed to help you determine how and when to use compost or mulch in your garden. If you wish to learn more on the subject in general, you can refer to any of the following resources:



My Primary Need is to: Additional Benefit TOPGROTM Premium Soil Amendment STA logo TOGRO Soil Amendment STA logo TOPGROTM Mulch STA logo TOPGROTM Ground Yard Trimmings 
 Help my plants tolerate extremes in temperature (too hot or too cold, too dry, too windy, etc.)
  •  Conserve moisture
  • Control weeds
  • Supresses wind blown dust

 two-three inches on the soil surface


Not the best if the problem is too much wind, as the fine particles may also be blown away.

two-three inches on the soil surface


Not the best if the problem is too much wind, as the fine particles may also be blown away.

two-three inches on the soil surface.


Not the best if the problem is too much wind, as the fine particles may also be blown away.

two inches minimum (up to but no more than 12 inches — ONLY WHEN WIND BLOWN SAND/SOIL IS A MAJOR PROBLEM) on the soil surface.  


Good particle size for dust suppression in windy areas.

 Help my soil infiltrate water and aerate (to not be so tight)

 Improve soil aggregation and granulation


Increase water absorption and retention


Prevent soil compaction and improve aeration

 ~two inches mixed into the top six to eight inches of existing top soil.  ~two inches mixed into the top six to eight inches of existing top soil.  ~two inches mixed into the top six to eight inches of existing top soil.



Not a soil conditioner


 Make surface areas more attractive


Make surface areas more usable for paths, play, and sitting.


Make areas easier to maintain.

 Apply two-three inches on the soil surface.


May need to be re-applied annually, depending on the desired look.

 Apply two-three inches on the soil surface.


May need to be re-applied annually, depending on the desired look.

 Apply two-three inches on the soil surface.


May need to be re-applied annually. depending on the desired look.

Apply two-four inches on the soil surface. 


Longer lasting.

 Prepare soil in a planting box or backfilling planting holes Helps condition the planting soil and improve the root growth environment. Mix one part compost with three parts of native soil.  Mix one part compost with three parts of native soil  Mix one part compost with three parts of native soil



Not for soil planting. However, may be placed on top of the soil after planting.



  TOPGROTM Premium Soil Amendment STA logo TOPGROTM Soil Amendment STA logo TOPGROTM Mulch STA logo TOPGROTM Ground Yard Trimmings
Is the product composted?   Yes  Yes  Yes  No
Can this product be used as mulch (on the surface of the soil)?   Yes  Yes  Yes  Yes
 Is this a good product to amend the soil (mix with the soil)?  Yes  Yes  Yes  No
 Is this product STA certified?  Yes

STA logo

STA logo

STA logo
 Are STA soil analysis lab results available for review?  Yes  Yes  Yes  No
 For sale in bulk (70 CF min) - call for quote  Yes  Yes  No  Commercial accounts only
 Available FREE at any of the LASAN's Give-Away Sites. Self-serve pick-your-own ONLY.

 Limited to 


One Give-Away location only.

 Limited to


One Give-Away location only.

 Yes  No
 1.5 CF pre-packaged bags available at the Lopez Canyon Environmental and Education Center  Yes  Yes  Yes  No



Give-Away Sites




 Give-Away Sites





Q: How do I figure out much product I need?

A: If you plan to buy pre-packaged compost or pickup our free bulk material, you will need to figure how much material you need. The easiest way to determine how much material you need is to find one of the many compost depth calculators available in the web. As an example, you can try using the calculator from this site.


If you choose the calculator provided, you will end up with the total cubic yards of material needed. If you want to purchase pre-bagged material, all you need to do is multiply the total cubic yards already calculated by 18. The final number will represent how many 1.5 Cubic foot bags of our product are needed. Keep in mind that one bag weights a minimum of 25 lbs.


NOTE: If you pick up the material in bulk, one pick-up truck full would be the equivalent of approximately one cubic yard


If you wish to calculate the amount yourself, below is an example. Apply this example to your particular situation.

  • First, determine the square foot measurement of your shrub or tree area(s) to be mulched. For instance, if you have a shrubbery border four feet wide and 25 feet long, the area to be mulched equals 100 square feet (four feet x 25 feet = 100 square feet). Next, determine the depth of mulch/layer you may want (in this example we will use two inches).
  • Now, convert the two inches to a fraction of a foot. Two inches divided by 12 inches equals 1/6 foot, or 0.17 feet. Multiply this fraction by the square foot measurement of the area to be covered (in this example 100 square feet x 0.17 feet equals 16.7 cubic feet).  For this example, you will need 17 cubic feet of mulch (rounding up the 16.7 to the next whole number of 17).
  • One cubic yard equals 27 cubic feet (a cubic yard measures three feet by three feet by three feet; three feet x three feet x three feet = 27 cubic feet). In the shrubbery example just given, you need 17 cubic feet of mulch, which is 0.6 cubic yard (divide 17 by 27).
  • If you purchase the bagged TOPGROTM Premium Soil Amendment STA logo product for the shrubbery example given above you will need just over 11 bags (17 cubic feet divided by 1.5 cubic feet in a bag).

Q: Is bulk delivery available?

LA Sanitation offers bulk delivery of TOPGRO.  The minimum delivery is 70 cubic feet. Delivery charge varies depending on distance. Please call 818-485-0725 for delivery pricing estimates.

Q: What about pests or pesticide residue from the yard waste collected in the green bins?

A: According to the State Cal Recycle, "composting is an effective means of reducing concentrations of pathogens in manure, yard trimmings, and biosolids. High compost temperatures kill pathogens, and beneficial microbes in compost help prevent the natural re-colonization of the pile by pathogens. Most people may use well-composted materials without taking special precautions against disease, but immuno-compromised individuals should avoid inhaling compost dust." Source


There are a number of published studies and opinions on the effects of pest and pesticide residue in yard waste. Below are links to some of these articles found in the Cal Recycle Website:


Pest/Threats Which Affect Green Material Movement in California,


Pesticide/Herbicide Residues in Compost,


Clopyralid Facts - Calrecycle


"Aspergillus, Aspergillosis, and Composting Operations in California" Technical Bulletin No.1 - California Integrated Waste Management Board 


Q: Is it safe to apply TOPGROTM  compost/mulch on edible plants?

A: Yes, all our products can be used in edible gardens.


Compost and mulching facilities in California are regulated by Cal-Recycle, the Regional Water Quality Control Board and the California Department of Food and Agriculture, among others.


In addition, LASAN participates in the "Seal of Testing Assurance" (STA) program of the US Compost Council, whose mission is to advance composting and promote compost use to enhance soils and provide economic and environmental benefits for USCC members and society. The U.S. Composting Council's Seal of Testing Assurance Program ('STA') is a compost testing, labeling and information disclosure program designed to give you the information you need to get the maximum benefit from the use of compost.


TOPGROTM Soil Amendment STA logo is a product using Class A biosolids as part of its feedstock; as such, this product is further regulated by the EPA through its biosolids program. You can learn more about the LASAN's biosolids program by accessing our Clean Water site.


Q: I want to grow an "organic" garden. Are TOPGROTM products considered "organic"?

A: Before answering this question, we need to first clarify the question after giving a brief background.


The California Department of Food and Agriculture’s (CDFA) Organic Program is responsible for the enforcement of the federal Organic Foods Production Act of 1990, and the California Organic Products Act of 2003. These statutes protect consumers, producers, handlers, processors and retailers by establishment of standards under which fresh agricultural products/foods may be labeled and/or sold as “organic.”


Fruits and vegetables intended to be sold, labeled, or represented as “100 percent organic,” “organic,” or “made with organic fruits or vegetables” must be "Certified Organic."


What is “Certified Organic?” "Certified Organic" means the item has been grown according to strict uniform standards that are verified by independent state or private organizations. Certification includes inspections of farm fields and processing facilities, detailed record keeping, and periodic testing of soil and water to ensure that growers and handlers are meeting the standards which have been set by the National Organic Program (NOP).


As a homeowner or community farmer, if you intend to label or sell your fruit or vegetables as being “organic,” you will be required to use mulch/compost/or fertilizers that are certified as “Organic Input Materials” (OIM). An OIM product refers to any bulk or packaged commercial fertilizer, agricultural mineral, auxiliary soil and plant substance, specialty fertilizer, or soil amendment, excluding pesticides, that is to be used in organic crop and food production and that complies with the requirements of the National Organic Program (NOP) standards.


Our yard care products are not OIM certified. However, all LASAN manufactured yard care products are carbon based/biodegradable materials that over time will add nutrients to your soil.


Q: How can I compost at home?

A: We are glad you asked! The good news is that there are a large number of resources available to help you get started!


LASAN offers opportunities to participate in compost workshops and bin sales events at our Griffith Park Compost Training facility and at the Lopez Canyon Environmental and Education Center. For more information, please visit our website.


LASAN also has prepared a brochure "Your Guide to Home Composting", which you can access here.


The County Department of Public Works is also a great resource. The County offers a large number of composting workshops throughout the County and some of them may be more convenient to City residents. Please refer to this website to find the workshop most convenient to you. Please visit the County's website to explore a wealth of additional resources.

The State of California Cal Recycle has additional resources.


The University of California Cooperative Extension of Los Angeles County has a program called “The Common Ground Garden Program.” The goal of this program is to:

  • Improve nutrition
  • Increase access to fresh, low-cost produce
  • Offer gardening education
  • Build bridges between neighbors and communities
  • Help create employment opportunities
  • Encourage a cleaner, greener Los Angeles


A large pool of resources including educational and training workshops are available from this University program. Please visit their web site at


Gardening Questions hot line sponsored by the “Common Ground Garden Program” is available by phone at (626) 586-1988 or email at