The average San Diegan disposes of 5.5 pounds of trash per day, which does not include what goes into the recycle or green waste bin. How does that compare to other regions? San Diego continues to dispose of more waste per capita than the state average at 4.9 pounds of trash per person per day and more than other major urban California counties, including Los Angeles.
How much you throw away also depends on where you live within the county. Residents in fifteen San Diego cities and the unincorporated county area increased their waste disposal while only three cities decreased, including Lemon Grove, Coronado and the city of San Diego. Although Imperial Beach’s waste disposal increased, they have the lowest total waste disposal per capita of any city in the county.
What can be done? Studies estimate that as much as 1 million tons of organics are generated in San Diego County each year, and only 2 percent of food material is sent to composting facilities. The San Diego Food System Alliance is fighting against food waste through the Save The Food San Diego consumer education campaign and initiatives. Businesses can reduce waste by donating food material to local food banks or pantries.
In addition, many cities and the county provide vouchers for composting bins that can be easily put in your backyard and used to reduce individual food waste. On a larger scale, facilities like El Corazon Compost Facility and Otay Mesa Compost Facility take yard trimmings and other organics – that would otherwise go in landfills – and turn it into organic compost and mulch.
Another way cities such as Solana Beach, Encinitas and, most recently, Imperial Beach combat mounting waste disposal is to ban food establishments from using service ware made of expanded polystyrene (EPS), which is commonly, but inappropriately known as Styrofoam®. EPS is not fully biodegradable and recycling is limited, meaning that these single-use items end up in our landfills, or worse, as litter on our beaches. The harmful effects of EPS to wildlife and ecosystems are proven and many other alternative food packaging materials are eco-friendly. The Surfrider Foundation is continuing to push polystyrene bans in other cities throughout San Diego County and California.
Waste is one of the 15 indicators tracked in the Equinox Project’s Quality of Life Dashboard. New information about these regional metrics will be released on Thursday, April 19. Check out how San Diegans compare when it comes to traffic, employment, housing, renewable energy and more.