San Diego is looking at a big bill to start collecting food waste. A measure on the November ballot could help him pick up the tab.

In January, San Diego is supposed to start collecting food waste from residents to meet a state mandate it has already exceeded. But unlike every other city in the state, San Diego cannot charge everyone who lives there the cost of doing so.

That could change, however, if city voters in November approve Measure B, which would change the century-old popular ordinance preventing San Diego from charging all single-family homeowners for any type of trash pickup.

Passing Measure B will not mean that the city will automatically start charging for waste collection to all homes that have been exempted from this fee, but it would give the city council the power to do so in the future. The city should also study in advance how much to charge for waste collection, which could take a few years.

Board Speaker Sean Elo-Rivera, who led the charge to put Measure B on the ballot, said the impending cost of waste disposal — required by the passage of SB 1383 in 2016 — is part of the decision to take the centenary law. .

“For me, SB 1383 is just another reason to do it now,” Elo-Rivera told Voice of San Diego. “The People’s Ordinance, as written, ties the city’s hands in a truly unique way compared to any other city. This does not put us in a better position to meet (climate) goals, provide fair service and be nimble and adaptable to any changes that may arise in the future.

A small plastic cup sits in a pile of organic waste on Feb. 22, 2022. / Photo by Joe Orellana

Right now, landfills in California account for 28% of food waste, according to 2021 data from CalRecycle, the state agency responsible for enforcing the mandate. By 2025, the city could start facing penalties if it doesn’t divert 75% of that organic material from landfill. It’s going to be very expensive for the city’s Department of Environmental Services.

Since San Diego can’t just charge its residents higher rates for the new service, it has to dip more into its main pot of tax dollars, called the general fund, to cover trash pickup for households in the city that doesn’t have to pay for it. Environmental Services has increased its claim on the general fund by 65% ​​since last year, when the city really started complying with the food waste recycling mandate.

The city spent about $173 million from the general fund between 2017 and 2021 to provide free garbage collection to homes that fall under the people’s ordinance, according to the city’s independent budget analysts. During these years, the cost of providing this waste collection service has increased by 14%.

“We are the only city in the state of California not to recoup our garbage collection costs and the consequences for citizens are reduced services in other areas,” said Michael Zucchet, general manager of the Municipal Employees. Association, which represents thousands of people. city ​​workers.

This fiscal year, the city’s Department of Environmental Services plans to spend $17.4 million to cover the ever-increasing costs of the state’s food waste recycling mandate. The city needs to hire 100 more people for the department, including 40 more sanitation workers, buy hundreds of thousands of new green rolling containers for people’s ordinance households, and hire technicians and staff to make sure everything the world meets new food waste codes.

In addition to this, the City Council issued new debt in August 2021 to cover projected food waste recycling costs of $35 million, including approximately 50 new green waste collection trucks and containers. The city has another $85 million task ahead of it: building a massive food waste recycling facility at the city’s Miramar landfill to process all of this new waste. To begin this work, the city has taken $6.2 million from the Recycling Fund, a fund that collects an additional fee that households not covered by the people’s ordinance must pay on all solid waste disposed of by private haulers. at the landfill.

And the city plans to spend more than $15 million to improve its landfill gas collection system starting in 2023, as part of compliance with the new food waste recycling law. Methane, a planet-warming gas created by decaying organic matter, has leaked from San Diego landfills, resulting in thousands of dollars in fines. As part of Mayor Todd Gloria’s update to the city’s climate action plan, San Diego aims to capture 85% of its landfill gas by 2035. About 74% is captured now, report says of 2020 on the city’s climate progress.

If the city could charge these people’s ordinance households a collection fee, it would free up more than $74.5 million from the general fund, recycling, trash and disposal funds, city budget analysts estimate. town. That’s more than the city plans to spend on all of its libraries and librarians in 2023.

About Derick Walton

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