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.

2020 Achievements

  • Diverted 60% of waste in the unincorporated county in 2019.
  • Received Board approval to increase diversion of construction debris through updates to the Construction and Demolition (C&D) Debris Recycling Ordinance.
  • Assisted businesses in adding 303 cubic yards of recycling capacity.
  • Posted 71 social media items of interest to over 2,000 followers of DPW Recycling’s Facebook page, 37 posts to Twitter and 11 on Instagram.
  • Worked with stakeholders to develop a regional tool to quantify potentially donatable edible food from commercial sources.
  • Conducted 954 presentations and inspections at 778 business and residential properties.
  • Conducted 227 presentations on waste reduction, recycling, and composting at local schools, reaching 11,184 students.
  • Held 17 composting workshops with 526 attendees.
  • Supplied 1,361 recycling bins and 414 compost bins to schools, multi-family residents, and businesses.
  • Collected 696 tires at a recycling event in Jacumba presented in partnership with a local community group.
  • Collected 160 used oil filters from five automotive stores participating in a used oil filter exchange event.

In Progress

  • Collaborating with Planning and Development Services to consider updates to County solid waste and land use policies to allow for streamlined collection and processing of organic materials within the unincorporated county.
  • Implementing food scrap and other waste diversion programs in collaboration with community organizations and franchise haulers.
  • Leading efforts to determine the volume of organic material generation and processing capacity countywide.
  • Identified edible food generating businesses in the unincorporated county that may soon be required by new state rules to recover or donate surplus edible food.
  • Worked with stakeholders to develop proposed updates to the County’s Solid Waste Ordinance and franchise agreements between waste haulers and the Department of Public Works to increase collection and diversion of recoverable materials. Staff plan to bring these updates for Board consideration in 2021.