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Pacific Beach residents to join organic waste program to recycle unwanted food

Banana and avocado peels being placed into a plastic kitchen pail, provided for free to residents as part of the program.
Banana and avocado peels are just some of the items that can now be recycled in the City of San Diego’s new Organic Waste Recycling Program. The items are being placed into a plastic kitchen pail, provided for free to residents as part of the program.
(Courtesy City of San Diego)

Citywide program will roll out over several months, starting Jan. 11

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Pacific Beach residents will have to think twice before throwing away the fruit they forgot about in the back of the fridge or the shells leftover from their morning omelet.

That’s because the City of San Diego has introduced the new Organic Waste Recycling program for all city residents.

“The new program — which represents the biggest change to trash and recycling in San Diego’s history — supports the city’s Zero Waste and Climate Action Plan goals, and is in compliance with CA State Senate Bill 1383, which requires the reduction of organic waste disposed of in landfills,” said Renee Robertson, the City of San Diego Environmental Services Department director.

Collection services for households serviced by the Environmental Services Department began in January 2023, and will continue as a phased rollout. Completion is expected by mid-2023.

While many local residents are familiar with the big blue plastic recycling bins seen across town, the organic recycling bins are green. Green bins will be provided for free to those customers who currently don’t have one. Every household will also be provided with a free kitchen pail.

“When the bin and pail arrive, each household can make a big difference for the environment by collection food scraps and food-soiled paper in their kitchen pail and discarding the contents into the green bin, along and yard trimmings and clean wood,” said Robertson.

The bins are to be set out weekly for collection at residents’ normal trash collection location.

Items accepted in the food scrap recycling bin include fruit, vegetables, pasta, grain rice, beans, non-edible leftover food (including eggs and eggshells), bread, coffee grounds and filters, cheese and pastries, food soiled parchment paper, kitchen scraps and more.

Yard waste eligible for the program includes garden and landscape waste, nonhazardous wood waste and yard trimmings.

Once collected, ESD turns the organic waste into compost by breaking down the material into healthy soil nutrients at the City’s award-winning Greenery, at the Miramar Landfill.

“The Greenery has been successfully composting thousands of tons of food waste from large venues for nearly two decades,” Robertson said. “The compost and mulch created go back into our communities to support healthy soils and reduce erosion.”

City of San Diego residents can pick up two cubic yards of either compost or mulch free from Miramar Greenery with proof of address.

The Organics Recycling Program is only for curbside residential service, and not for commercial establishments, many of which already participate in food recycling programs.

Private waste haulers serve many multifamily apartment and condominium property owners and businesses in the city. These haulers will now provide organic waste recycling services for weekly pickup. For more information, businesses and property managers can visit SanDiego.gov/OrganicWasteRecycling.

The estimated delivery schedule for the green bins citywide is based on residents’ current trash collection day, beginning Jan. 11.

“Wednesday customers will receive their green bins first, followed by Thursday, Friday, Monday and Tuesday customers, until everyone has received a bin,” Robertson said.

A new organic waste recycling bin joins the familiar black trash bin and blue recycling bin.
(Courtesy City of San Diego)

Customers are asked to wait until their green bin and instructions arrive before beginning to collect their organic waste.

“In a city of 1.4 million people, this is a monumental task that we are taking very seriously,” Robertson said. She added that city employees are working diligently and carefully to make the transition easy for everyone.

The kitchen pails are plastic containers with lids and a handle, designed to be used indoors to collect food scraps. The containers can be frozen or refrigerated until collection day. More tips on what can go into the pail and how to keep the pail clean are at tinyurl.com/SDorganic.

The green bins are not to be used for glass, metal, plastic products, pet waste, diapers or dirt and rocks.

Tips on taking care of the green bins include keeping in a shaded area with the lid closed and having it picked up weekly, even if it is not full.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, organic waste accounts for a significant portion of California’s waste stream. Robertson said when the waste is left to decompose in landfills, it releases methane, which traps the sun’s heat, warms the atmosphere and contributes to climate change.

“To address these issues, SB 1383 was signed into law and targets the reduction of pollutants, including methane. Instead of methane from a landfill, we will be making nutrient-rich compost, so it’s a double win,” Robertson said.

Cities throughout California must achieve a statewide goal of 75 percent reduction of organic waste disposal by 2025.

And while tossing a few wilted salad greens or orange peels into a kitchen pail may not seem like a huge effort, it is all part of a bigger picture.

“This is a great way to make a positive contribution to addressing climate change,” Robertson said. “Diverting organic waste happens at the individual level; we cannot do this without everyone’s participation.

“And it’s convenient and easy, because the program is being delivered right to your front door — all an individual needs to do is participate.”

For more information, visit SanDiego.gov/OrganicWasteRecycling.


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