Council adopts zero-waste trash plan

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SAN DIEGO — A plan to divert increasing amounts of San Diego’s waste away from the Miramar Landfill — and eliminate all trash from going to the facility by 2040 — was approved Monday by the City Council.

Recycling efforts currently divert a little over two-thirds of waste in San Diego from going to the landfill. The “Zero Waste” plan envisions the diversion rate climbing to 75 percent by 2020, 90 percent in 2035 and 100 percent in 25 years.

“Folks right here, we have a lot of work to do in our own back yard in our own house,” said District 2 City Councilwoman Lorie Zapf. “We’d really like to have an incentive program or something like right here and see if we can improve ourselves first as we’re asking the community to, because it’s easy to do and I encourage everybody to make that extra effort as we’re asking the community to do.”

The plan, under development for about two years, provides a series of recommendations for how to attain each rate. The ideas include, among other things:

  • accepting fibrous plants, which cause jams in current grinding systems;
  • requiring franchise waste haulers to increase their diversion rate of 26 percent to 50 percent by 2020, and higher in the future;
  • increasing the frequency in which haulers collect blue and green recycling containers;
  • collecting yard waste recycling from more customers;
  • implementing more education and outreach programs; and
  • raising the recycling rate at city facilities from the current 20 percent to 50 percent by 2020.

“Right now, we really need to focus on people, especially residents at the curbside level as I mentioned. That 24 percent is pretty dismal,” said San Diego Environmental Services spokesperson Jose Ysea.  Ysea said proposed programs aimed at waste reduction and diversion will include additional organic recycling, revising city recycling ordinances and increasing education and outreach.

“One of the components of the city’s recycling ordinance that the city passed in 2008 was education. But the other thing is enforcement, where we would go out and do inspections and if people aren’t recycling we could fine them,” Ysea said.

The proposed programs are projected to cost the city $8 million. Residents, who currently do not pay for trash pickup, could see fines for not following stricter waste rules.

“All that is part of the education to let people know that if you don’t’ do it  we are going to be big brother and lean on you to recycle. Otherwise you’re going to get fines. But again, that’s a last ditch effort,” Ysea added.

Mayor Kevin Faulconer applauded the council’s vote.

“The city of San Diego continues to be an environmental leader and the `Zero Waste’ plan is just the latest step we’re taking to leave a better tomorrow for the next generation of San Diegans,” he said. “There are many ways to reduce, reuse and recycle the trash we collect every day, and this plan sets the city on a path to achieving the ambitious goal of zero waste.”

The city’s Independent Budget Analyst’s Office reported that if all the funding ideas were implemented, the impact on the general fund would be minimal losses in the next few fiscal years — with a small surplus by 2020.

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