San Diego County cities hustle to digest green trash

Escondido’s anaerobic digester converts organic waste into fertilizer for farms and natural gas for vehicles.

Del Mar does not have a food waste collection facility. But it has to be by next year. And restaurants hard hit by the pandemic are sweating the new costs, from dumpsters to rodent control.

Government regulations aiming to keep organic waste out of landfills require residents and businesses to recycle food waste, landscape debris, non-hazardous wood waste, and compostable paper.

The city must make organic collections available to all residents and businesses.

The small town now sends 3,200 tons of organic waste to the landfill every year, with garden waste being the most common type. However, the food content is 3/4 of a tonne of waste per person, not including the exhibition grounds.

“That’s just a tremendous amount,” said Jessica Toth, executive director of the Solana Center for Environmental Innovation, who is working with Del Mar to figure out how to meet government mandates for recycling organic matter.

Del Mar does not comply with a 2016 organic matter recycling law that applies to large commercial generators. Since the law came into force, it has applied to ever smaller companies every year.

According to Clem Brown, the city’s sustainability manager, this isn’t just a Del Mar issue. In fact, no city in San Diego recycles its organic waste in full compliance with state regulations, he told the city council last week.

“Right now there is a real lack of infrastructure to process the region’s bio-waste stream. Finding local recycling options for organic matter will be critical.”

Since the city’s contract with its freight forwarder, Waste Management, precedes the new organic matter regulations, it doesn’t make it easier to fully comply with state laws.

Waste management has been exploring possible future options in Poway and Lakeside, and composting facilities in Otay or Oceanside – but “each has problems,” Brown said.

However, neighboring cities are already finding their way. In a new facility, which is about to open in Escondido, organic waste is processed and converted into fertilizer for farms and natural gas for vehicles with the help of an anaerobic fermenter. Twelve cities are registered.

The fermenter is the first of its kind in San Diego, Brown said.

Companies and sustainability advocates are calling on Del Mar not to renew their contract with Waste Management when it expires in June 2022 as there are no local ecological recycling facilities and waste needs to be transported to Orange County.

They hope the city can get quotes from EDCO and other freight forwarders who may offer lower prices.

Ann Feeney, vice chair of the Sustainability Advisory Board, stated that Solana Beach and Encinitas are among the cities that have recently started recycling organic waste on the roadside and will soon start recycling organic waste commercially – because EDCO, their freight forwarder , started building his anaerobic digester a few years ago.

“We need to be sure that our next waste transport contract will include sufficient recycling of organic waste” in order to comply with state law.

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