Policy Updates Aim to Increase Diversion of Organic Materials from Landfills


Landfills are one of the main sources of greenhouse gas emissions in California due to the decomposition of organic materials, such as food scraps, wood and yard trimmings. Organic materials account for over a third of materials currently being sent to landfill in unincorporated San Diego County.

Solid Waste Ordinance

On May 5, 2021, the County of San Diego Board of Supervisors unanimously approved (Item #5) updates to the Solid Waste Ordinance to encourage waste diversion in the unincorporated county. These changes are expected to conserve landfill space, lower greenhouse gas emissions from landfills, and enhance environmental and public health.

The Ordinance now requires residents and businesses to separate and recycle organic materials, such as food scraps, lumber, and green materials. The update also sets minimum waste diversion standards for businesses and multifamily complexes. Additionally, businesses selling food (as defined by the State) will be required to donate surplus edible food that would otherwise be disposed. Businesses donating food and food recovery organizations and services will be required to report donations annually.

These actions will not only decrease the volume of organic materials in county landfills, but will also increase edible food recovery to serve the 1 in 3 San Diegans who are currently food insecure.

Franchise Agreement

The Board of Supervisors also updated its franchise agreement with companies providing waste and recycling services.

The new agreement expands waste diversion programs, including requiring collection of organic materials and food scraps; monitoring contamination with feedback to generators; establishing educational programs with materials provided in multiple languages; setting hauler waste diversion goals and standards for previously unregulated construction and demolition debris haulers; requiring use of alternative fuel vehicles by July 2029; and more.


These updates align with State mandates which require local jurisdictions to adopt ordinance requirements for recycling organic materials, and integrate programs such as contamination monitoring, food donation, and enforcement.

These updates also align with the County’s Strategic Plan to Reduce Waste, which set a goal to achieve 75% waste diversion in the unincorporated County by 2025. This goal was later extended to 80% waste diversion by 2030 in the County’s 2018 Climate Action Plan. To help the County meet its goal and learn how to cut your waste, more information is available on the County website www.r1earth.org.