Waste

How Are We Doing?

Landfill waste disposal received a thumbs down because San Diego County's daily waste disposal per capita increased from 5.6 pounds in 2017 to 5.8 pounds in 2018. Unfortunately, San Diego County continues to dispose of more waste per capita than the state average and is among the highest in waste disposal of California counties. More than half of San Diego jurisdictions increased their waste disposal from 2017 to 2018. For the past three years, Imperial Beach has had the lowest total waste disposal per capita and Del Mar has had the highest.

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 down

Worsened more than 1 percent from 2018 to 2019

The waste disposed by San Diegans, not including waste recycling and composting, has been higher than the California average since 2000. In 2018, San Diegans threw away an average of 5.8 pounds per capita per day, 0.2 pounds (approximately 5%) more than the state average. 

In 2018, San Diegans threw away an average of 5.8 pounds per capita per day, 0.2 pounds more than the average in 2017. The per capita waste disposal level in San Diego County is similar to that of Los Angeles County, and more than Orange County, which had a lower disposal rate in recent years. Among Southern California counties, San Diego County is the second highest to 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. Although the cities of Del Mar and Coronado had some of the highest daily pounds per capita 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. 

The economic activities within a jurisdiction influence the waste disposal. For example, the City of Del Mar is a small city with a population of less than 5,000, but hosts the Del Mar Fairgrounds with events over the year attracting millions of people. Therefore, 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. Larger regional cities may not see such large impacts of events.

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. All jurisdictions have met their target to divert 50% of waste, but 12 jurisdictions experienced an increase in daily waste per capita between 2017 and 2018. Some of the jurisdictions that have seen large percent increases, namely Chula Vista and Imperial Beach, have historically had low daily waste disposal per capita whereas Coronado decreased their daily waste disposal substantially but still had the second highest daily waste disposal per capita.

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, a healthy environment, and is an equitable place for all San Diegans to grow and prosper.

  • 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.