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A City Commitment to Recycling
September 2008 | By Sam Borgese


Here is a compelling “green” statistic: San Francisco has removed 70% of its disposable waste out of local landfills. (The state average is 54%.) And Mayor Newsome is not stopping with that impressive achievement. San Francisco’s goal is to have 100% of its disposal waste eliminated from local landfills.

And how does this work for a large City (population 750,000)? It’s a dedication to being the best city in more than just words. It’s a pay-as-you-go system of charges for waste disposal (the more trash receptacles you place at the curb the higher your waste disposal bill) and creative reuse of all the material, garbage and basic recycled waste generated by residents and businesses. 

As for samples of creative reuses, most of the recycled paper goes to China for reprocessing into consumer product packaging; concrete demolition waste goes into new sidewalks and garbage goes to compost for Napa Valley vineyards.

And San Francisco is just one of a number of large cities in California that are aggressively attacking waste management. San Jose is at a high of 62% and Los Angeles is at 52%. This in contrast to other large U.S. cities with less impressive numbers such as New York City at 30.6 percent, Milwaukee at 24 percent, Boston at 16 percent and Houston at 2.5 percent.

How does Del Mar measure against the list of cities such as San Francisco and San Jose that efficiently manages household and commercial waste?

At the moment Del Mar at 53%, complying with AB 939 the State Assembly Bill that requires all California cities, through the California Integrated Waste Management Board, to have 50% of its disposable waste out of landfills. 

The question is, should Del Mar at 53% and approximately 4300 people and thousands of visitors lag behind San Francisco and its success in managing the waste of 750,000 residents and its millions of visitors?

Here are some readily available steps that have been presented to increase Del Mar’s percentage of disposable waste out of landfills. These steps center around the obvious, such as a local business recycling program of at least the basics: paper, glass, and plastic (included in Del Mar’s current Waste Management Agreement – in other words free to businesses); business association sponsorship for the placement of recycle containers in the village core; a local business policy to encourage businesses and commercial property owners to make space available near public areas for container placement; and, a City policy for Parks and Recreation and Community Services Department to review the current collection sites within our parks and beaches with the goal to select potential new recycling containers that will remove recyclable waste from the thousands of people who visit and use the parks and beaches each year.

Perhaps the reason these steps have not yet been taken lies in the fact that unlike other cities Del Mar does not have a specific goal to increase its percentage of disposable waste out of local landfills. It also does not have, as part of its waste strategy, a garbage-to-compost policy which has proven to be very effective in contributing to the reduction of waste out of landfills and which is also directly related to meaningful decreases in poisonous leaching in landfills.

Del Mar might learn a lesson and start seeing recycling a little differently. More like Robert Reed, a spokesman for Norcal Waste Systems, the parent company of Sunset Scavenger and Golden Gate Disposal and Recycling Company, the main garbage collectors in San Francisco: “When we look at garbage, we don’t see garbage, O.K.? We see food, we see paper, we see metal, we see glass.”

The question is what does Del Mar see?



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