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Only A Quarter Of San Diego’s Trash Is Recycled Annually

Photo credit: Mbeo/Flickr

Baled recyclables.

San Diego should revise its contracts with private garbage haulers to boost recycling rates, an audit of the city's waste collection system recommended Monday.

Only about a quarter of the 1.3 million tons of refuse generated annually in San Diego is recycled, according to the City Auditor's Office. A recent study, however, found that about three-quarters of the refuse generated can be recycled or used as compost.

City officials are hoping to increase recycling rates to meet state mandates and reduce the amount of garbage going to landfills. The Miramar Landfill is projected to be full in 11 years, according to the report.

"We found that the primary reason for low recycling rates for commercial and multi-family properties receiving collection services from franchised haulers is that the city has not required the haulers — who have the most day-to-day contact with customers — to achieve minimum recycling rates or ensure that customers meet the city's minimum recycling requirements," the report said.

City officials should require incrementally higher recycling rates to divert 50-60 percent of refuse by 2020, the audit suggested.

"Other jurisdictions have successfully increased recycling rates for customers receiving service from franchised haulers by including these requirements in franchise agreements," the audit said.

The authors of the report also suggested ending San Diego's non- exclusive area system, where several contractors range across the entire city and can make pickups in the same area. The companies would provide more efficient, cost-effective service if given exclusive access to districts within the city, the report said.

Such a system would reduce the mileage logged by trash trucks, thereby cutting fuel use and air pollution, the report said.

The authors said that changing the franchise system is a policy call for the mayor and City Council, and recommended that the city's Environmental Services Department study the costs and benefits of such an action.

In a memo, Environmental Services Director Mario Sierra said he agreed with the dozen recommendations in the audit, although the cost-benefit study could take a year and a half.

Other recommendations included having the city track recycling by residents, business and city departments.

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