Composting: Nature’s Recycling


Food scraps and yard waste comprise 34 percent of waste in the unincorporated area landfills.

When we dispose of these organic materials, they take up limited landfill space and release methane, one of the more potent greenhouse gases because of its ability to efficiently trap heat in the atmosphere.

An important way to divert food scraps and yard waste from the landfill is through composting, a controlled, natural decomposition of organic matter. Microorganisms and macroorganisms break down organic materials into compost, or humus, a nutrient-rich soil amendment that improves the health and efficiency of your garden ecosystem from the ground up.

Benefits of Composting

If you are undecided about why you should give composting a try, here are some benefits for you and the environment:

  • Benefits your yard and garden by improving soil health and fertility, which increases plants’ resilience to pests, disease, and other environmental stressors.
  • Helps soil hold more moisture, minimizing erosion, runoff and nutrient loss, and reducing the need for frequent watering.
  • Diverts valuable organic resources from emitting methane gas in the landfill, and encourages natural nutrient cycling.
  • Saves money by conserving water and replacing the need to purchase commercial fertilizers and soil amendments.
Composting Basics

DIY Composting

The type and process of composting used can vary depending on the food and yard waste volume materials, but most home-based composting rely on small-scale, backyard composting or vermicomposting (composting with worms).

If you are interested in composting at home, the Solana Center for Environmental Innovation’s Compost It Yourself Guide: Guide to Backyard Composting will show you all the basics, including the materials you’ll need to get started, what should and shouldn’t go into your compost bin, troubleshooting tips, and how to use the finished compost in your home garden. If you discover a love for composting, you can even become a Master Composter!

The County of San Diego also offers a number of additional resources available for at-home, commercial, farm and ranch composting.

Unincorporated County residents can receive a voucher for a discount on at-home composting bins. Vouchers are available for residents of the City of San Diego as well.

Composting ProgramHarvesting completed compost. Photo by Steve Weihe.

The County Puts It Into Action

Recognizing the importance of diverting materials from the landfill and the impact composting organic waste has on avoiding methane production, the County’s Climate Action Plan includes Measure SW-1.1: Solid Waste Diversion. This measure aims to achieve an 80% solid waste diversion rate from landfill of construction and demolition waste and organic materials by 2030 in the unincorporated county.

In addition, the County has started an informal composting program at the County Operations Center. Each week, members of the Sustainability Task Force collect food waste from their departments and meet to compost the materials. Since starting in April 2019, the program has diverted an estimated 500 pounds of food scraps from the landfill!