Despite not collecting solid waste or managing landfills, the County influences and supports private sector waste diversion through agreements with waste haulers and the administration of state and local solid waste and land use policies, programs, and ordinances. The solid waste measure focuses on diverting waste from landfills through food donation programs, waste prevention education and outreach, and updating land use ordinances to increase organic materials processing to help the County achieve reductions of 79,052 metric tons carbon dioxide equivalent in 2030.

On September 30, 2020, the County of San Diego Board of Supervisors voted to set aside its approval of the County’s 2018 Climate Action Plan (2018 CAP) and related actions because the Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Report (2018 CAP SEIR) was found to be out of compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). In response to this Board action, staff are preparing a Climate Action Plan Update (CAP Update) to revise the 2018 CAP and correct the items identified by the Court within the Final 2018 CAP SEIR that were not compliant. The 2018 CAP and EIR are being revised in partnership with residents, and business and environmental groups. The County continues implementing sustainability measures to effectively reduce greenhouse gases (GHGs) as part of its ongoing commitment to the environment. The court ruling struck down part of the 2018 CAP’s EIR but did not find fault with its 26 GHG reduction measures. Learn more about the CAP Update.


Strategy SW-1 – Increase Solid Waste Diversion in the Unincorporated County


Solid waste disposal accounts for 11% of unincorporated county emissions, largely from methane, a greenhouse gas 85 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Methane is produced at landfills when organic materials (such as food scraps, landscape debris and paper) decompose in a landfill. The Otay and Borrego landfills are located in the unincorporated county. According to the County of San Diego’s Strategic Plan to Reduce Waste, 474,750 tons of solid waste from the unincorporated county was sent to landfills in 2015. Of the materials sent to the landfill, construction and demolition debris comprised 34% and organic materials comprised an additional 34%, though both streams of valuable recoverable materials that could be diverted from the landfill.

The County’s Board of Supervisors established a 75% waste diversion target by 2025 for the unincorporated county through the implementation of the Strategic Plan to Reduce Waste. The 2018 Climate Action Plan established an 80% waste diversion target by 2030 within the unincorporated area.


  • Diverted 58% of waste in the unincorporated county in 2021.
  • Received Board approval in 2021 to update the County’s Solid Waste Ordinance and Non-Exclusive Franchise Agreement with waste haulers to require recycling of designated organic materials and expand collection of these materials.
  • Received Board approval in 2022 to adopt the Organic Materials Ordinance Update, an ordinance amendment for composting standards in the unincorporated area.
  • Established an Edible Food Recovery Subcommittee, as part of the regionwide Integrated Waste Management Technical Advisory Committee to coordinate edible food recovery efforts across many stakeholder groups.
  • County contractors and staff conducted 183 presentations for 6,384 unincorporated businesses, residents, and students covering topics such as recycling, composting, and food waste reduction.
  • Supplied 2,794 recycling bins and 386 compost bins to schools, businesses, and residential properties.
  • Completed 281 site visits to commercial & residential properties. Implemented recycling programs at 232 schools, residential properties, and businesses.
  • Assisted an additional 1,632 recycling programs located at schools, residential properties, and businesses.
  • Distributed 9,785 resources including recycling and composting guides and recycling and educational signs for bins and waste enclosures to schools, residential properties, and businesses.
  • Collected 280 used oil filters for recycling from two event days at five automotive stores participating in used oil filter exchange events..

In Progress

  • Implementing food scrap and other waste diversion programs in collaboration with franchise haulers and community organizations.
  • Leading efforts to determine the volume of organic material processing capacity countywide.
  • Leading efforts to quantify edible food recovery capacity countywide.
  • The Department of Public Works is leading an internal working group comprised of multiple departments to collaboratively implement required programs to divert organic waste, promote food recovery, and achieve procurement targets for recovered organic waste products under SB 1383 (Short Lived Climate Pollutants).