Waste

How Are We Doing?

Landfill waste disposal received a thumbs up because San Diego County's daily waste disposal per capita decreased from 5.8 pounds in 2018 to 5.3 pounds in 2019, lower than the California statewide average for the first time since 2000. Eight of San Diego jurisdictions decreased their landfill waste disposals from 2018 to 2019. For the past three years, Imperial Beach has had the lowest total waste disposal per capita, below 3 pounds per capita per day.

Want to know more about what we're measuring?

More details regarding how we are doing in the past ten years on reducing waste disposal are described in this 10-year trend analysis.

thumbs up

Per capita waste disposal dipped below state average in 2019

The 2019 waste disposed by San Diegans, not including waste recycling and composting, has been lower than the California average for the first time since 2000. In 2019, San Diegans threw away an average of 5.3 pounds per capita per day, 0.4 pounds (approximately 7%) lower than the state average.

In 2019, San Diegans threw away an average of 5.3 pounds per capita per day of trash into the landfill, 0.5 pounds less than the average in 2018. The per capita waste disposal level in San Diego County is lower than that in Los Angeles and Orange County, but higher than other Northern California counties. Among Southern California counties, San Diego County was the second highest after Los Angeles County in total waste tonnage disposed on average from 2008 to 2018. More details on the comparison are discussed in this 10-year trend analysis.

There are large variations in levels of daily waste disposal per capita among San Diego County jurisdictions. The cities of Del Mar and Coronado disposed of the most waste per capita daily. The City of Imperial Beach had the least amount of daily waste per capita followed by the City of Oceanside. Direct per capita landfill disposal rate comparisons do not reflect the economic activities of these cities. For example, the City of Del Mar has a population of less than 5,000, but hosts the Del Mar Fairgrounds with events over the year attracting millions of people. The fairground’s waste disposal amount is included in the City of Del Mar’s waste disposal rate accounting for approximately 30% of the total City of Del Mar’s waste.The per capita waste disposal in the City of Coronado increased more than 50% from 2018 to 2019, most likely due to the waste disposal from a Navy construction project in 2019. Larger cities may not see such large impacts of events.

An alternative look at landfill waste shows for example, that although the cities of Del Mar and Coronado had some of the highest daily pounds per capita landfill disposal amounts, both jurisdictions combined represent less than 5% of the total waste disposed of in San Diego County. Disposal rates increased the most between 2017 and 2018—only seven jurisdictions had lower waste per capita disposal in 2018 when compared to 2017 numbers. 

California Assembly Bill 939 requires all state agencies and large waste facilities in a jurisdiction to achieve 50% waste diversion rates based on their individual per capita generation amounts in base year 2006. Because of this, the waste diversion target for each jurisdiction is different and the per capita disposal targets equivalent to 50% diversion rate are also different. It is best to compare each city’s waste disposal with its own targets every year. Almost all jurisdictions achieved their 50% waste diversion targets in 2018, except Escondido. Additionally, Assembly Bill 341 set a target of a 75% waste diversion by 2020. This has not been achieved by any jurisdictions.

More details on how well each jurisdiction maintains its targets in the past ten years are discussed in this 10-year trend analysis.

Change in waste disposal per capita illustrates which jurisdictions are heading in the wrong direction and which jurisdictions have made progress in decreasing waste disposal. Eleven jurisdictions experienced an increase in daily waste per capita between 2018 and 2019. The per capita waste disposal in the City of Coronado had the largest increase, 56%, most likely due to the waste disposal from a Navy construction project in 2019. The City of Solana Beach had the largest decrease, 13%, between 2018 and 2019. Click on the jurisdiction you’re interested in to see how they are doing. Click on the navigation panel in the top left to view details about the map’s layers.

Click on the jurisdiction you’re interested in to see how they are doing. Click on the navigation panel in the top left to view details about the map’s layers. 

Why is Waste Important?

High quality of life means the region boasts a thriving economy and a healthy environment accessible to all in the community.

  • Environment: Landfills today are designed, engineered and operated to minimize emissions of all kinds, from air pollutants to leachate (water that has percolated through a solid and leached out some of the constituents). However, organic waste disposed and degrading at landfills emit methane, a potent greenhouse gas. This study shows the largest methane point source emitters in California are 32 waste landfills and composting facilities, representing approximately 15-20% of the State’s methane emissions. Methane emissions can be reduced by decreasing the amount of waste going into the landfills, through recycling and composting.
  • Economy: Reducing waste disposal reduces the need for landfill capacity, and therefore land, in California. Reducing waste, not producing it in the first place, also prevents pollution, saves energy, and avoids the production of greenhouse gas emissions. All of these actions lead to cost savings, as a community and for individuals, against increasing future disposal costs.
  • Equity: Solid waste facilities may produce pollution, odor, attract pests and release chemicals into the air and soil around the facilities. Proximity to waste sites and facilities is an indicator of vulnerability to pollution’s effects identified in the State’s CalEnviroScreen tool. The communities near solid waste facilities are usually home to communities with high concentrations of poverty. In the San Diego region, Otay Mesa is among the most vulnerable communities facing the impacts of waste facilities. 

Regional Response

Policies

In 2019, the City of San Diego passed an ordinance to ban polystyrene products like Styrofoam and to limit the distribution of single-use plastic products such as straws and utensils. This action follows similar bans in other large cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles, as well as local jurisdictions like Encinitas, Solana Beach and Imperial Beach.

Projects

The San Diego County Regional Airport Authority adopted a zero waste plan in 2019. The main goals are: 

  • Reducing waste generation by 5% and 10% by 2025 and 2035 respectively
  • Increasing waste diversion from landfills by 90% by 2035
  • Demonstrating leadership in zero waste both in the region and industry

Partnerships

Established in 1983, Solana Center for Environmental Innovation has partnered with Urban Corps to provide monthly e-waste management to local businesses at no cost.


What Are We Measuring?

We measure waste disposal by tracking the historical trend in average daily pounds of waste disposed per person in San Diego County and California. We also compare the latest data year of select counties’ daily waste disposal per person as well as the total and year-over-year change in San Diego County jurisdictions’ waste disposal. Learn more about the data.