San Diego can keep burying trash for the next 37 years – Voice of San Diego
January was a trashy month in San Diego.
A new state law has gone into effect requiring everyone to recycle their food scraps, which means meat, bones, vegetable scraps, and citrus peels go in a green trash can in your apartment. or behind your restaurant. Cities face the cost of this new mandate from the state, mostly unfunded, which usually means passing it on to youthe taxpayer.
And Republic Services sanitation workers staged a month-long strike that, like Jesse Marx arranged in its column, the company broke with the help of a contract clause that would have taken care of workers’ health if they had not resumed garbage collection. If San Diegans haven’t thought about what they’ve thrown away before, they certainly had to deal with it as the trash generated during a big party billowed outside local dumpsters.
Zero-waste advocates, meanwhile, argue that San Diego is particularly good at generating waste. A measure of this is how long we let our landfills grow before closing them.
One of the area’s major landfills, Otay Landfill owned by Republic Services, is scheduled to close Feb. 25, 2030, according to the San Diego County Department of Environmental Health. It is the agency empowered by the state to regulate landfills.
“When people say, ‘when is the landfill going to close?’ I always ask them, ‘how much are you going to throw away?’ said Neil Mohr, general manager of San Diego collection for Republic Services, during a tour in early December.
The county must review all landfill permits once every five years, which generates a new assessment of the landfill’s room for growth before it reaches its permitted capacity limit. According to this, the region has enough space to landfill waste until 2059. The state’s new food waste recycling law is expected to help extend the life of landfills in the region. The county has estimated that 39% of the trash we throw away as a region is organic food waste and therefore recyclable.
But landfills can exceed their permit limit. The county report shows that the Miramar landfill, operated by the city of San Diego, will also reach maximum capacity by 2030. But in 2019, the city announced the extension of the life of this landfill allowing the trash to pile up another 25 feet higher in the air.
This irritates zero waste advocates like Jessica Toth of the Solana Center for Environmental Innovation.
“I don’t want to see us putting extra capacity (in landfills) because that allows us to keep dumping there,” Toth said.
The county expects another major landfill, Sycamore Landfill, which is also owned by Republic Services, to apply for two more life extensions based on the amount of trash it received on average. Its estimated closing date is 2054.
We’ll have a more up-to-date outlook on the area’s waste generation this summer, when the county’s next five-year waste management report is delivered to the state.