August 13, 2015



Our vision is to cut our region’s waste down to zero by 2040, using a three-pronged approach:

1. Decrease waste production– especially excess consumables and packaging like plastic bags and Styrofoam containers.
2. Divert trash from landfills and instead recycle and compost.
3. Capture emissions from landfills and wastewater treatment processes.

Why worry about waste? Waste creates tons of methane– a potent greenhouse gas– when it decays in landfills. Landfills and the waste in them can also leach toxins into the soil and water table. Waste ends up as debris in our oceans and our beaches, leading to even bigger garbage patches in the middle of our ocean!

Garbage binsHere are the facts about waste in San Diego and why we view it as central to our strategies to fight climate change:

  • 5% of greenhouse gas emissions in the City of San Diego come from solid waste wastewater management.
  • 4.15 million tons of waste is discarded by San Diego residents each year.
  • The largest contributor of this waste is from the commercial sector.
  • 76% of San Diego’s waste is recyclable, but only about 67% of it is actually recycled. 
  • $54M is the value of San Diego’s recyclables, yet City’s waste diversion and recycling rates well below optimal:
    • The City’s single family curbside recycling and yard trimmings collection programs divert only 23% of the waste generated by that sector.
    • Commercial and multi-family facilities divert only 26% of the waste they generate.
    • Worse, the City is setting a bad example with only a 27% waste diversion rate at the City’s own facilities.
    • By comparison, most mature curbside recycling programs achieve at least a 40% rate of diversion and commercial rates can often be significantly higher than that.
  • Organics make up 1/3 of landfilled materials in the City of San Diego.
  • Food waste makes up 15% (approx 200,000 tons) of materials discarded in San Diego. This shows both how far behind the City is, and how much opportunity there is for composting and other waste reduction and diversion practices.

What’s Happening in the Region:

While getting to Zero Waste is undoubtedly a challenge, the good news is that we’re already on our way in several cities around the region:

City Of San Diego

  • 2016 – July 19: The City of San Diego became the 150th jurisdiction in California to adopt a ban on single-use plastic bags. The measure is effective September 2016. Learn more here.

The City is also working to achieve:

  • By 2020: 75% diversion of waste from landfills into recycling, compost and reuse to meet state law, which means an additional 332,000 tons per year must be diverted from landfill disposal.
  • By 2035: 90% diversion, as part of the City’s Climate Action Plan (December 2015).
  • By 2040: Zero Waste, detailed in City Of San Diego’s Zero Waste Plan (June 2015).
  • Considering a ban on single use bags. Read our Coalition Letter on San Diego’s Bag Ban Recirculated DEIR on 5-9-16.
  • Continuing to sequester methane gas produced by the Miramar landfill and use it to create electricity for the Marine Corps Air Station Miramar.

There is also momentum in other parts of the region, which CAC will continue to watchdog:

Solana Beach


  • Working to reduce waste and protect our waterways with consideration of a ban on polystyrene (Styrofoam) containers and cups, as well as plastic bags.