San Diego Won't Rest on Its 'Laurels'

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On Sept. 22, San Diego mayor Jerry Sanders announced at a news conference that the city has reached an all-time high recycling rate. In 2008, 64 percent of all waste in the city was recycled or reused.

That means approximately 2.5 million tons of waste was diverted from the landfill.

“All San Diegans deserve credit for taking the message of recycling to heart,” Sanders said, later adding that the City won’t rest on its “laurels” and will continue to develop innovative programs.

Photo: Flickr/slack12

San Diego is making big strides in keeping this popular vacation spot on the green track. Photo: Flickr/slack12

In 2000, the city took a close look at the composition of waste in the landfills. They found that 65 percent of the refuse was recyclable. When broken down further, 35 percent was construction and demolition debris, 20 percent was yard waste and organic material and 45 percent was other household recyclables.

“By diverting now, we save landfill capacity for the future,” said Chris Gonaver, San Diego’s director of environmental services.

It is estimated that the city’s only active landfill, the Maramar Landfill, will be out of capacity within a decade. The Miramar Landfill covers more than 1,500 acres and collects approximately 1 million tons of trash each year.

The city’s recycling ordinance was passed in 2007. The law requires recycling of plastic, glass, paper and cardboard at private residences and commercial buildings. It is currently still being phased in. All apartments, condominiums and commercial facilities must begin recycling by Jan. 1, 2010.

“It has been estimated that construction and demolition accounts for more than 22 percent of the overall waste stream in California, 35 percent of the waste at Miramar Landfill, and it is estimated at more than 100,000 tons annually for the unincorporated areas of the county and over 1 million tons countywide,” said Waste Management San Diego’s Community and Municipal Relations Manager Les Hart, as reported by the San Diego Business Journal.

Subsequently, the Construction and Demolition Debris Deposit Ordinance was passed. The law took effect in 2008, requiring construction, demolition and remodeling projects to pay a refundable deposit, as well as divert at least 50 percent of their debris by recycling, reusing or donating materials. To assist, a new facility near San Diego will convert 130,000 tons of commercial construction waste into reusable products each year.

The next step is organic waste. The city is looking more closely into the disposal of commercial food waste as they expand their compost facility at Miramar Landfill to triple its size.

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