Organic Materials Ordinance Update Project


County staff has been conducting research and public outreach to inform the development of the Organic Materials Ordinance Update project.

This project is part of a Countywide effort to meet solid waste diversion targets pursuant to the 2018 Climate Action Plan and in alignment with programs and policies recommended by the Strategic Plan to Reduce Waste.

A key component of waste diversion is the recycling of organic waste, which includes green materials, agricultural materials, food materials, vegetative food materials, wood waste, manure, and others. These materials are highly recyclable and can be converted into value added products such as compost and mulch. In 2019, residential disposed waste in San Diego County was made up of more than 40% organic materials. Landfilling organic waste leads to the anaerobic breakdown of that material, which creates methane. Methane is 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide over a 20-year horizon, making landfills a top greenhouse gas emitter in California. Methane is also short-lived in the atmosphere, which means reducing these emissions has great potential in fighting climate change.

Let's talk about organics and compost!

The Organic Materials Ordinance Update project involves amendments to the County’s Zoning Ordinance and related regulations to clarify and modernize the management of organic materials. This project will support the development of small- and medium-scale composting operations, which in turn will help the unincorporated county divert organic materials from landfills. Farms and residents in San Diego County already compost, a practice that controls the decomposition of organic materials and converts them into soil, fertilizer, mulch, and other beneficial uses.

Below are illustrations that cover a wide range of composting practices: 

Static piles let organic materials sit passively while they break down. These piles can be open air or have covers. Additionally, equipment can be used to provide aeration. Windrow composting is a long row of a compost pile that are turned manually or with a mechanical device. In-vessel composting, sometimes referred to as “within vessel composting” takes place in an enclosed structure, usually a drum, silo, bin, or similar device. In-vessel composting can include small scale anerobic digestion, which is a breakdown process without oxygen. Other composting options include vermicomposting, which breaks down organic materials with the help of worms, or insect raising, which is another catalyst to help breakdown organic materials.

Get Involved

As the Organic Materials Ordinance Update project advances, County staff will continue to engage residents, farming communities and organizations, composting operators, environmental groups, waste reduction advocates, industry groups, and others for feedback and ideas that encourage composting to become a more widely available, sustainable option in the unincorporated area. To stay up-to-date on the latest information on the development of the Ordinance, as well as opportunities for public input, visit the Organic Materials Ordinance Update webpage.