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Green bins are becoming more common across San Diego County, since a bill to reduce the amount of food waste sent to landfills came into effect last year. But do you know what can go in them? KPBS reporter, Claire Strong, went to find out.

What you need to know about San Diego County's new composting rules

California is going green — green bins that is.

At the beginning of last year, Senate Bill 1383 went into effect requiring all residents and businesses to reduce the amount of organic waste they send to landfills. This is all in an effort to decrease the amount for short-lived climate pollutants, such as the greenhouse gas methane, which is 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide over a 20-year timespan, according to the California Air Resources Board (CARB).

While many cities in San Diego County have already been collecting organic waste, the city of San Diego recently began to roll out its organic waste disposal program. Here are some frequently asked questions:


What is SB 1383?

California’s Short-lived Climate Pollutant Reduction law, often called SB 1383, went into effect Jan. 1, 2022. It establishes targets to reduce methane emissions in California and sets goals to reduce the disposal of organic waste. SB 1383 requires that by 2025 the state has reduced the amount of organic waste entering landfills by 75%.

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Why focus on composting to fight climate change?

Separating food scraps from regular everyday trash is the easiest and most impactful way for an individual to fight climate change, said Mallika Sen, the director of environmental solutions at the Solana Center for Environmental Innovation.

“Not everyone can afford to put solar on their roof, not everyone can afford to drive an electric car,” Sen said. “So many of the solutions that I think get talked about, they’re not available to average people. Not sending your organics to the landfill and making sure you don’t waste food is something that each of us can do.”


Food Waste Facts

  • A family of four wastes on average $1,866 per year on food
  • 40% of food is never eaten
  • 39% of waste in San Diego County landfills is organic
  • San Diegans throw away an average of 5.3 pounds of food waste per day

Sources: USDA, SD Regional Climate Collaborative

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Are all San Diegans required to compost now?

No, there are a few exceptions primarily in the unincorporated areas of San Diego County. The county has designated sparsely populated areas where residents and businesses can apply to be exempt from the composting requirement. More information about the types of exemptions and how to apply for a waiver can be found here.

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When will I receive my green bin?

When your green bin for organic waste arrives will depend on where you live and your housing situation.

If you live in the city of San Diego and you’re a city curbside customer the city has already started distributing green bins, but if you haven’t received one yet don’t worry. They are being delivered over the next few months and Deputy Director of Environmental Services Ken Prue said all residents will have received their bins by the end of July. City residents will also receive a kitchen pail to put food scraps. Check out the chart below to get a sense of when your green bin will be delivered based on your trash day.

If you rent in the city of San Diego you should see a green bin at your apartment complex or condo soon. The timeline is dependent on your landlord and the private trash hauler that services the property. Ask your landlord or property manager where you can put your organic waste.

If you live in an unincorporated part of San Diego County it will depend on which non-exclusive franchise hauler you use. Check with your trash hauler if you have not received your green bin yet.

If you don’t live in any of the above mentioned areas check with your local jurisdiction. This information is often located on the city’s website under environmental services.

If you live in Imperial County it will depend on the city and its non-exclusive franchise trash hauling provider. Check your city's website for more information or the Imperial County Department of Public Works Solid Waste Division's website here.

A sign outside the Miramar Landfill, Feb. 12, 2023. Majority of waste collected in San Diego ends up at this landfill, which also houses a compost facility, the Miramar Greenery.
Brenden Tuccinardi
A sign is displayed outside the Miramar Landfill, Feb. 12, 2023. The majority of waste collected in the city of San Diego ends up at this landfill, which also houses a compost facility, the Miramar Greenery.

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Where does the organic waste go?

All of the organic waste collected will end up at a composting facility or an organic waste processing facility. The city of San Diego operates a composting facility at the Miramar landfill, called the Miramar Greenery, where organic waste is turned into compost, and then it's made available for purchase. City residents can fill up two cubic yards of compost for free if they load it themselves.

EDCO, the waste hauler that services most of North County, operates an anaerobic digestion facility, where organic waste is broken down by bacteria in an oxygen-free environment. The resulting methane emissions are captured and then converted into natural gas fuel used by EDCO trucks.

Which cities have launched composting programs?

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How do I start composting?

The key is to start small, Sen said.

“Start with a little bin under your sink and start with the little food scraps from chopping,” she said. “Soon you will discover, ‘Oh now I’m done with dinner, maybe I can scrape my plate scrapings in there.’ It just starts expanding.”

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How do I reduce my food waste?

Solana Center experts recently reported in an educational webinar the USDA estimates a family of four spends about $1,866 per year on food that they end up throwing away. So not only is it important to dispose of food waste correctly, but being mindful of how much food you throw away could actually save you money.

Food waste reduction begins at the grocery store, before you buy.

“Before you go shopping, plan your meals,” Sen said. “Don’t just go (to the grocery store) and randomly pick up stuff.”

Doing what Sen called “wish shopping” creates a lot of food waste, she said, because you end up buying things you eventually end up throwing away. Sen also cautioned against buying things simply because they’re on sale, because it often leads to people buying more than they need.

Another way to reduce the amount of food you waste is ensuring food is stored correctly, especially produce. Solana Center experts recommend, a resource that helps determine the best way to store food from beans and rice to fruits and dairy, so that it lasts longer giving you more time to use it.

What other composting questions do you have?

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How do I keep my green bin clean?

Location and layering are key. Sen recommends putting yard trimmings at the bottom and then alternating between food and yard waste. To prevent your bin from smelling, Sen said, keep it in a shaded spot with the lid closed always.

On trash day, after the bin has been emptied, remove any remaining waste, and if needed, rinse out the bin, making sure to pour the water out on your grass or other landscape area. If you pour it on the street it will pollute our waterways. And, if you notice your green bin starting to smell, sprinkle a layer of baking soda on top, Sen said.

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What are some other resources?

The Solana Center has a lot of information on composting and offers workshops on a variety of sustainability topics.

Also, the city of San Diego provides a number of resources to residents, including in-person and virtual workshops and the Curbside Organic Waste Recycling Guide, which is available in four languages. The city’s website,, also includes an FAQ, instructions for what can go in the green bin, tips to keep your green bin clean and more. Residents can also reach out to the city with questions by emailing or by calling 858-674-7000.

Corrected: February 15, 2023 at 2:18 PM PST
Editor's Note: A previous version of this story referred to the Solana Center for Environmental Innovation as the Solana Center. The story has been updated to include the full name.
Brenden Tuccinardi is a web producer at KPBS. He is responsible for writing web stories, copy editing and updating the station’s website. Prior to joining KPBS, Brenden was an assistant English teacher in Madrid, Spain. Before that, he served as Editor in Chief of The Daily Aztec, San Diego State’s independent student newspaper.