San Diego! Are we serious about recycling?
by Carolyn Chase
Economic and political conditions have stopped the expansion of San
Diego's curbside recycling program. The city would like it to grow ... but
needs your help
bout 84,000 homes in the City of San Diego have curbside
recycling services; another 213,000 are going without. Mayor Susan Golding
and other City Council Members have expressed support for city-wide expansion,
but have also opposed legally mandating recycling - as has been done in
the County and other local cities. The result has been a hybrid system where
San Diego has managed to subsidize recycling services for some residents,
but not for others. The City currently provides curbside recycling pickup
for 42,000 homes, while services for the other 40,000 are contracted out
to private hauler. The rest of us either haul it ourselves or send it to
Over the past year, the City Environmental Services
Department has studied ways to expand the program. Polls and focus groups
have shown the demand is there. "When am I going to get curbside recycling?"
and "Why don't I have curbside at my house?" are two of the most
common questions regularly fielded by Council offices. But will we agree
to pay for it?
The City is in a tough spot. One group of folks is already
getting this "free" service, and another much larger number are
going without and wondering why. There is not enough financing available
from the current approach in order to expand the system. Why did this happen?
Paying for pickup
While most cities charge a fee for trash pickup - and
commonly use this as an incentive and funding mechanism for both recycling
and waste reduction - ordinances in San Diego prohibit this approach. But
the City did want to find a way to respond to public demand for recycling.
So, a partial program has been under way, but without any way to pay for
The Environmental Services Department has gone through
an extensive study of department operations and financing, and analyzed
ways to bring curbside recycling to all the homes in its service area. They
have concluded that what we have today is a system that needs to change
and evolve in order to survive. They are recommending that the current curbside
recycling program be replaced with a city-wide automated system with a fee-based/rebate
Under the new system, participants would pay a monthly
fee and receive an annual rebate. Fees and rebates would be based on system
and market costs. While the expenses should stay relatively stable, the
revenue will fluctuate based on commodity markets for recyclables. The estimated
costs for the city-wide program would be in the range of $2.50 - $3.00 per
house per month. Revenues over the past year have fluctuated between $0.75
- $1.50 per house per month. When prices go down the rebate would be less,
when prices go up, program members would get more back.
The bottom line is that the current system cannot be
sustainably expanded without a financing base. The expansion of the program
city-wide would cost an estimated $7-12 million - at a time when the City
is strapped for cash. The sale of the recyclables collected from the program
only covers a portion of the operating costs.
In addition to an increase in recycling, the program
will give waste reduction efforts a shot in the arm because the City would
no longer accept common recyclables in their weekly trash pickups. Residents
could either take their recyclables to private groups or choose to use the
The City has an additional incentive to provide the
program because this diversion of materials increases the life of the landfill.
Competitive pressures have reduced landfill revenues, putting additional
pressure on finances and eliminating funding needed for future expansion.
What you can do
If we agree in the name of fairness that the system
should be expanded, then we are going to have to help pay for it. Would
you pay a monthly fee for curbside? Even if you're getting it "for
If curbside is to be expanded, your help is needed!
"PLAN 2000 - Partnership for a Sustainable Future"
- · Please attend a public meeting on Wednesday, August 21
in Kearny Mesa.
August 21 - 6PM - 7PM
9601 Ridgehaven Ct., San Diego
From I-15 exit Balboa heading west. Take the first left (south) at signal
at Viewridge. Left again (at the T) on to Ridgehaven Ct.
- Send comments to: John Turner, City of SD, Environmental Service Department,
9601 Ridgehaven Ct., SD CA 92123-1636 or call 492-5009.
- · Let the Mayor and City Council and know you support expansion
of curbside recycling. City Council of San Diego, 202 C Street, San Diego,
Contacting the Mayor and City Council
District Name Phone Fax e-mail
Mayor Susan Golding 236-6330 236-7228 mayorsdmayor.sannet.gov
Dist 1 Harry Mathis 236-6611 236-6999 harrycd1.sannet.gov
Dist 2 Byron Wear 236-6622 236-6996
Dist 3 Chris Kehoe 236-6633 595-1481 dist3cd3.sannet.gov
Dist 4 George Stevens 236-6644 236-6529
Dist 5 Barbara Warden 236-6655 238-0915
Dist 6 Valerie Stallings 236-6616 236-6529 vyscd6.sannet.gov
Dist 7 Judy McCarty 236-6677 236-6539 judycd7.sannet.gov
Dist 8 Juan Vargas 236-6688 231-7918 ovbcd8.sannet.gov
Carolyn Chase is editor of SDET and Chair of the City's Waste Management