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Council OKs Proposal To Meet San Diego’s ‘Zero Waste’ Goal

Photo by Katie Orr

Bulldozers push around piles of trash at San Diego's Miramar Landfill.

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.

The plan, under development for about two years, provides a series of recommendations for how to attain each rate.

The ideas include:

• 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

• raising the recycling rate at city facilities from the current 20 percent to 50 percent by 2020

"We need to lead by example and be in the forefront," said Mario Sierra, San Diego's director of environmental services.

He said the city would have to build more infrastructure in the future to meet the post-2020 goals.

The plan is a framework, with many of the individual provisions requiring later action by the council or the mayor's office.

"Achieving zero waste really is critical and important to the city," Councilman David Alvarez said. "Obviously, the environmental goals are really clear, but ... the savings associated with allowing our landfill to serve our community for longer than was anticipated is also an incentive for us to reach zero waste goals, or reducing the amount of waste we take to our landfill."

Supporters said increased recycling envisioned in the plan will be good for the environment, and will increase the lifespan of the landfill, which is approaching capacity.

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 plan also includes funding recommendations to cover around $8 million in costs and revenue losses. 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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