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City: Challenges from pandemic, global recycling market affecting zero-waste goals

A San Diego trash truck is shown parked at the Miramar Landfill, Sept. 12, 2019.
Claire Trageser
A San Diego trash truck is shown parked at the Miramar Landfill, Sept. 12, 2019.

Earth Day celebrates its 52nd anniversary Friday, and over the years has inspired many ambitious climate action plans and environmental cleanup efforts.

In San Diego, one action plan is the city’s zero-waste plan. The goal set in 2015 was to divert 75% of trash from landfills by 2020, 90% by 2035 and 100% by 2040.

Earlier this month the nonprofit Climate Action Campaign released the fifth edition of its annual Climate Action Plan Report Card for cities in the region. The nonprofit gave the city of San Diego a score of zero for its zero-waste implementation because its trash diversion rate has hovered at around 65% since 2017.


RELATED: Composting moves from backyards to city waste facilities in San Diego County

Ken Prue, deputy director of the city’s Environmental Services Department, said challenges posed by the pandemic and global recycling markets as well as population growth have stymied local trash diversion efforts.

"We've been very fortunate that the city of San Diego's waste diversion rate has stayed in the mid-to-high 60s for a number of years, and, in a way, you know, it's not as high as we'd like, but the fact that it's stayed there while we've seen increased population and also employment growth — which those are things that usually lead to increased waste generation — so we're glad that we haven't declined, but we're also looking forward to the additional increases that we'll see here in the near future with the new state organic recycling requirement," Prue said.

Prue joined Midday Edition on Friday with more on how the city continues to scale up its efforts to reduce waste.