Heavy Weight Recycling: Construction Debris is Key to Meeting Goals


Each year, an estimated 34% of the waste that goes to landfills in San Diego is construction and demolition (C&D) debris, amounting to more than 100,000 tons annually for the unincorporated areas and over 1 million tons countywide.

Disposed (C&D) materials, such as rock, dirt, sand, roofing, wood, drywall, and carpet that could overburden landfills, provide greater environmental and economic benefits when recycled.

Diverting these C&D materials from landfills can reduce greenhouse gas emissions, disposal fees and provide the raw materials needed for new products.

Unincorporated Area Landfill Waste CompositionSource: Strategic Plan to Reduce Waste

County Commits to Reducing Waste

In 2017 the Board of Supervisors approved the Strategic Plan to Reduce Waste. This plan aligns with other County initiatives, such as the Climate Action Plan (CAP) and the Strategic Energy Plan. In the Strategic Plan to Reduce Waste, the County set a goal to achieve 75% waste diversion by 2025 and subsequently set a CAP goal of 80% diversion by 2030.

New C&D Requirements Increase Recycling Rates   

On April 1, 2020, the County enacted changes to its C&D ordinance to reach its waste diversion goals. The update is intended to increase C&D diversion from landfills, conserve landfill capacity and comply with waste diversion requirements of the State’s CalGreen Building Standards Code.

Key changes to the C&D ordinance include:

  • The square footage for covered C&D projects was lowered from 40,000 ft2 to those greater than 5,000 ft2 and now includes grading and land clearing projects.
  • All applicable C&D projects are required to reach a 65% overall recycling rate, including 90% diversion of inert materials (concrete, asphalt, dirt, etc.).
  • Major Grading projects must recycle or reuse 100% of excavated soils, trees, stumps, rocks and vegetation.
  • A fully refundable performance guarantee of $0.40 per ft2 is required for applicable construction and demolition projects. Grading projects are not required to place a deposit.
  • All projects covered by the ordinance are required to submit a Debris Management Plan, maintain a Daily Log on-site and submit a Debris Management Report upon completion of the project that details levels of recycling diversion obtained.
  • A phased approach in lowering the threshold for applicable projects was built into the implementation of the ordinance. Additional changes will take effect on January 1, 2021.

Construction & Demolition Resource Recovery

For C&D projects with limited space or unable to separate materials onsite, materials may be sent to a mixed C&D recycling facility. SANCO Resource Recovery and Buy Back Center in Lemon Grove is an example of a certified mixed recycling facility that processes mixed construction loads of wood, concrete, asphalt and drywall (short facility video here). This facility has a 72% diversion rate and can process 1,000 tons of C&D material daily. For, please visit the County’s C&D Recycling website.

For more information regarding the C&D ordinance, facilities and other resources, please visit the County’s C&D Recycling website or email CDRecycling@sdcounty.ca.gov.