Dan Nore | 25th Street
How often do we embark on an initiative expecting to learn one thing but end up learning something far more important? In the case of Del Mar, I personally discovered a disappointing gap between us and other communities in the extent of our sustainability practices and programs. We can attribute the gap to our small size and lack of resources, but I think we can do more if we get creative and make sustainability a community priority.
The Del Mar Sustainability Advisory Board (SAB, formerly known as the Energy Issues Advisory Committee and given a new charter) and Keep Del Mar Clean recently completed a successful pilot of the BigBelly Solar Compacting trash cans. The innovative equipment was located in two locations: Powerhouse Park and next to the restrooms near the main Lifeguard Tower.
The BigBelly’s delivered as promised. The pilot indicated that a BigBelly only needed to be serviced once a week as compared to the daily requirements of the current gray cans. The design eliminated the chance of wind blown or seagull scattered litter, and provided an attached recycling receptacle. The recycling units were consistently full and contained little or no trash contamination.
It was the success of the BigBelly recycling that started to change the direction and influence the conclusion of the pilot. Investigation into the City’s recycling program revealed the absence of a community wide recycling strategy. It seems inappropriate to pursue high-end solar compacting trash cans when core recycling programs are lacking.
The state of affairs with Del Mar recycling programs is a casualty of stretched city staff and lack of financial resources. We had an existing solid waste management contract with comprehensive recycling provisions, but too few staff to enforce those provisions. Recycling will get more attention with a new competitively bid solid waste management contract. We expect Del Mar will close the recycling program gap with the new contract and get on par with neighboring cities.
I expect that Del Mar will continue to trail neighboring cities in addressing sustainability issues unless we can address staffing constraints and resource shortfalls. Future sustainability issues will include water use, transportation, energy, and compliance with State regulations such as AB32 and SB375. It is becoming more common for cities to have staff dedicated to sustainability and environmental issues. Sadly we will see increased emphasis on climate change adaptation programs as well. Having a newly chartered Sustainability Advisory Board is not enough.
I believe it’s time for Del Mar to have a full or half-time staff position to support sustainability and environmental programs in Del Mar. We provide world class beach facilities, beach trash collection, and expert lifeguard services. Perhaps it’s time to revisit beach area paid parking and the use of some of these funds to preserve our cherished community.