Organic waste recycling to begin in Carmel Valley in coming months

Organic waste recycling will be rolled out to San Diego homes this year.
(Courtesy City of San Diego)

Organic waste recycling will begin this year in San Diego neighborhoods, a requirement for all of California as a result of Senate Bill 1383.

The city is still working on a residential implementation plan for the new program—it won’t happen all at once but as soon as homeowners receive their new kitchen pail and composting bin, that is their trigger to start collecting.

“It’s going to be a big habitual change for everyone,” said Meagan Browning, recycling specialist with the city of San Diego. Browning shared the latest on organic waste recycling with the Carmel Valley Community Planning Board at its July meeting.

Senate Bill 1383 requires the development of organic waste diversion programs, aiming to reduce the organic waste sent to landfills by 75% by 2025 and reduce short-lived climate pollutants like carbon dioxide and methane. The greenhouse gasses pollute the air and contribute to climate change and have a negative effect on the economy, public health and the environment, Browning said.

Currently, more than 900,000 tons of trash is disposed of at Miramar Landfill every year—and a lot of that material can be recycled.

“Diverting organic waste from landfills will have the fastest impact on the climate crisis,” Browning said.

Organic waste recycling has already begun locally in cities such as Solana Beach, Del Mar, Chula Vista and Escondido.

Implementing Senate Bill 1383 requires extensive procedural changes for San Diego. The city needs to establish funding and scheduling, purchase vehicles to pick up the organic waste, hire additional staff to assist with the increased workload, prepare facilities to process and store organic materials, and amend franchise agreements with private waste haulers.

All city-serviced residential customers will be given a free kitchen pail and green composting bin. The city will be transitioning to a weekly pick-up schedule for the green cart.

All city-serviced customers will receive a free kitchen pail.
(Courtesy City of San Diego)

Businesses and multifamily apartments and condos serviced by a private hauler will need to contact city-approved franchise haulers or certified recyclers to request new organic waste recycling containers and services.

So what counts as organic waste? Organic waste includes food scraps, yard trimmings, untreated wood and food-soiled paper products like coffee filters and paper bags.

Organic waste that is not accepted includes tea bags, food stickers and ties, oil/grease, cleaning supplies, plastic and wax-lined paper.

Once the organic waste is collected, Browning said it is processed in two ways: a composting facility where it’s converted into materials like mulch which helps create healthy soils or it is sent to an anaerobic digestion facility to create renewable natural gas.

“You can still use your disposal for tiny scraps but for any kind of true food waste you should be using this organic waste recycling container,” said Browning. “ When you put your food down the garbage disposal it goes to the wastewater treatment plant…it becomes a bio-solid so it’s not exactly as beneficial as if you put it into organic waste recycling.”

Some planning board members had questions about the practicality of the program and how the collection of food waste in the home might become messy, smelly and attract insects and maggots.

Browning said the city has a lot of tips and tricks to offer for this big lifestyle adjustment: “It’s very clear it’s going to be a learning curve for everyone.”

Best practices she shared for indoor bins included storing scraps in the fridge or freezer, draining as much liquid as possible from the scraps, and wrapping food in napkins, paper towels or a brown paper bag so it won’t be as messy.

Outdoors, she advised keeping bins closed and in the shade, and lining the bottom with newspaper or yard trimmings. The bins can be rinsed with mild soap to clean and baking soda can be used to help with odors.

For more information, visit