Environmental issues that affect all residents of Pacific Beach were the subject of two presentations at the community’s town council meeting on September 21.
The City of San Diego is preparing for the mandatory organic waste recycling program that will impact all garbage collection customers.
According to a state mandate, San Diego was already supposed to start the program, but a lack of equipment and facilities caused it to miss the deadline. No official launch date has been set either.
Known as SB 1383, the Organics Recycling Act was enacted in 2016 to reduce greenhouse gas methane emissions from rotting food and other organic materials sent to landfills. Waste should be diverted to facilities that create compost and mulch or natural gas from the waste.
Although many cities, including San Francisco and Los Angeles, have met the state’s Jan. 1, 2022, deadline to segregate organic waste during residential and commercial curbside collection, San Diego is not ready.
Meagan Browning, a recycling specialist with the Department of Environmental Services, said San Diego is still buying new collection trucks and containers, hiring additional staff and changing municipal code and franchise agreements with waste haulers.
“You name it, we worked on it,” Browning said. “The city has done a lot of things in recent years. It’s quite a long implementation plan, but it’s a very large jurisdiction.
She said methane takes 10 years to break down, but is 84 times more powerful than carbon at trapping heat in the atmosphere. With the law aiming for a 75% reduction in methane emissions from landfills by 2025, approximately 40% of the 900,000 tonnes of waste sent to the Miramar landfill each year is organic waste that must be redirected.
“California is experiencing many drastic effects of climate change,” she said. “We see it with the continued droughts we face, warmer temperatures and all of this contributes to our tough fire seasons.”
The law is already in effect for large food companies such as distributors and supermarkets. In addition to separating organic waste, they must donate edible food to organizations such as food banks, to represent a 20% reduction.
Private haulers serving multi-family dwellings (apartments and condos) and small businesses are prepared to divert organic waste, Browning said.
Service for single-family homes has not yet started. Every household in the city will receive a green bin for organic waste, including food scraps, food soiled paper (plates, napkins and bags) and plant clippings (lawn clippings, leaves, branches and flowers) .
So-called brown fats, oils, liquids and biodegradable plastics and bags must not be placed in the green bins.
Homes with green bins will not receive new ones, but will have their organic collection weekly instead of every two weeks, Browning said.
Households will also be provided with plastic buckets to deposit leftover food before disposing of it in the bins. Browning suggested that buckets be kept in freezers and emptied into bins closer to collection day to minimize odors, flies and rodents.
“If you get fixed on Tuesday and your cart is emptied and you throw food waste in it and it’s 100 degrees, I think we can imagine what’s going to happen there,” she said. .
The city will stagger its rollout of organic waste collection by neighborhood to familiarize itself with the new system and make adjustments to unforeseen issues, Browning said.
“It will be a learning curve for everyone,” she said, adding, “you don’t create more waste. You just separate it into another container.
SB 1383 stipulates warnings and fines for serial offenders. A reporting system is set up for the city and carriers to collect and report data to the state.
“We’ll get the overall compliance of who’s actually participating and who’s not participating, where we can see the diversion numbers that way,” Browning said.
Locals will be notified when the program arrives in their area with the arrival of the kitchen bucket and a flyer in the mail.
“It is mandatory that every generator has a three-bin system,” she said, adding, “We will do our best to make sure you are aware before the cart is actually delivered to your home. But if you have a private carrier, it’s available to you now.
In the second presentation, Lydia Greiner, project coordinator at San Diego State University’s Research Foundation Center, spoke about her group’s tobacco product waste reduction program.
Beginning in July 2021, the project collected, counted, weighed, geocoded and photographed tobacco litter on public walkways in 60 random census blocks — including four in Pacific Beach — across eight towns in the county. The majority were in the city of San Diego.
“We are working in select locations in San Diego County to systematically collect and measure tobacco product waste so that we can map its distribution, identify land use and socioeconomic characteristics that may influence this distribution, and then feed this information back to communities for conversations about developing systemic solutions,” Greiner said.
Socio-economic factors were divided into two levels of household income. The study also includes six land use categories – single-family homes, multi-unit homes, entertainment areas, parks, mixed-use commercial and office space, and parking lots.
“Parking lots are a huge problem,” Greiner said. “They are basically a giant ashtray. It doesn’t matter where they are. Choose a city.
Although cigarette butts are the main waste, they also include plastic and metal cartridges and batteries from electronic cigarettes and other tobacco waste.
“I live near PB,” Greiner said. “I can assure you that e-cigarettes are a huge part of tobacco product waste. On a Sunday morning walking past bars and restaurants you will see so much e-cigarette waste.
Greiner said cigarette butts take 10 years to decompose and eventually end up in the ocean.
“They break down into micro-plastics, where they remain in our environment and accumulate in marine life and eventually enter our food chain and our water,” she said. “Just when you think that wasn’t bad enough, they’re also releasing toxic chemicals into our soil and water: nicotine, arsenic, metals, polyaromatic hydrocarbons, to name a few.”
She said tobacco waste is often reported near schools.
“Anecdotally…people told us there was a really big problem around the schools,” she said. “Not because of the kids, but because of the parents picking up the kids. They park their cars and eat junk food and they drop their cigarettes outside their cars.
Data on litter collected at Pacific Beach should be ready by January. Greiner said she would like to speak with the board in more detail then.
“We will share data with communities and brainstorm solutions,” she said. “I’d love to hear your feedback on this. I’d love to think about how this project might align with your priorities as a band and your ideas for collaboration.”
Board chair Marcella Bothwell agreed with the plan.
“We will be very curious to hear the results,” Bothwell said.