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San Diego Compost Haulers Have Short Window To Become Legal

A pile of food scraps sits in a compost bin at the UrbanLife Farm in City Hei...

Photo by Andrew Bowen

Above: A pile of food scraps sits in a compost bin at the UrbanLife Farm in City Heights, Feb. 6, 2018.

San Diego businesses have until March 11 to apply for special permits that would allow them to collect kitchen scraps and haul them to small-scale composting facilities.

The tight deadline, announced last week by the city's Environmental Services Department, comes after the City Council voted in January to permit small-scale organic waste hauling in the city. The move was an effort to support the city's Zero Waste plan by making it easier for homes and businesses to keep their food scraps out of landfills.

Fidencio Reyna started his moving business, Mission Minded Moving & Hauling, after serving in the Marines for eight years. He said he plans on applying for one of the permits from the city because it's an opportunity to grow his business while also supporting the environment.

"It's just another way to expand that type of business, where I'm filling a void that needs to be filled," he said. "I love working, I love making money. And if I can help somebody out along the way, or help many people out along the way, that's what it's all about."

RELATED: Composting In San Diego Feels Growing Pains

Small-scale composting programs have been operating in a legal gray area in San Diego, where most waste hauling is restricted to three companies, and their subsidiaries, that hold contracts with the city. Smaller businesses now have the chance to become "certified recyclable material collectors" — a recognition that would let them haul up to 1,000 tons of recyclables and organic waste per year.

Applicants for the certification have to pay a $130 fee and submit an application with proof of liability and workers' compensation insurance. The city agreed to extend the deadline for providing proof of insurance by 30 days, after composting advocates asked the city for more time to file applications. Applications still must be received prior to March 11, city officials say.

Mikey Knab is the founding chair of Business For Good San Diego, a coalition of business owners that advocates for progressive causes. He said not enough entrepreneurs had been made aware of the business opportunity to get certified for food scrap collection.

"My hope is that the city will consider opening up the window again in a year or two years time, or semi-regularly," he said. "Because as these businesses reach toward that 1,000-ton limit... we're going to stop being able to divert waste."

San Diego is opening up a special permitting program to businesses that want to collect organic waste and take it to small-scale composting facilities.

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