Organic Materials Ordinance Update

Project Contact: Claire Moss  |  |  619-679-4625


The County of San Diego Planning & Development Services (PDS) and Department of Public Works (DPW) are developing the Organic Materials Ordinance Update project to help divert organic materials (such as food scraps, plant materials, and agricultural materials) from landfills. The project will amend the County’s existing zoning ordinance (ZO) to allow organic material processing or composting to occur in more areas of the unincorporated county by:

  • Adding more composting allowances for agricultural land;
  • Allowing community composting in residential settings and adding more allowances for composting in community gardens;
  • Providing more permit options which will vary depending on the size and intensity of the operation, encouraging more small- and mid-scale commercial activities; and
  • Ensuring the protection of public health and safety by including best management practice requirements to address issues of stormwater runoff, odors, pests, and others.

All of the changes proposed in this project are voluntary. This project does not mandate or require anyone to compost or accept organic materials.


Organic Materials Ordinance Update Goals

The County of San Diego Board of Supervisors (Board) has adopted a variety of plans and initiatives to reduce the County’s greenhouse gas emissions, make the best use of local natural resources, and reduce the need for new landfills. A key element of these plans is to set a waste diversion goal for the unincorporated county. In 2017, the Board received the Strategic Plan to Reduce Waste, which set the initial waste diversion goal of 75% by 2025. In 2018, the Climate Action Plan increased the waste diversion goal to 80% by 2030. Achieving this goal, the fourth-largest emission reduction measure in the 2018 CAP, would account for nearly 9%, or 79,052 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MTCO2e), of the total emission reductions needed for 2030. Additionally, Board action on January 13, 2021, directed the Climate Action Plan Update to establish actions to meet a goal of net zero carbon emissions for the unincorporated county by 2035-2045.

A primary component of waste diversion is the recycling of organic waste, which includes green materials, agricultural materials, food materials, and vegetative food materials. These materials are highly recyclable and can be converted into value added products such as compost, mulch, and/or energy sources. 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 GHG emitter in California. Methane is also short-lived in the atmosphere, which means reducing these emissions has great potential in fighting climate change.

The Organic Materials Ordinance Update project is part of a Countywide effort to meet solid waste diversion targets pursuant to the 2018 CAP and in alignment with programs and policies recommended by the Strategic Plan.

Organic Materials Ordinance Update Project Area Map

Past Public Workshops

Virtual public workshops were held on the following dates to solicit feedback on the project.

Additional Updates

On July 22, 2022, the Planning Commission voted unanimously (7 ayes) to recommend approval of the staff recommendation for the Organic Materials Ordinance to the Board of Supervisors.

The County of San Diego Board of Supervisors will conduct a public hearing on the Ordinance Amendments related to processing of organic materials (Organic Materials Ordinance) as follows:


Date: August 31, 2022 and September 14, 2022

Time: 9:00 a.m.

Location: County Administration Center, 1600 Pacific Highway, Room 310, San Diego, California  92101

PUBLIC PARTICIPATION: Members of the public may participate in the meeting in-person or via teleconference pursuant to the regulations in place at the time of the meeting. Those wishing to participate in the meeting and/or comment should visit the Board of Supervisor website. If you have any questions, please contact the Clerk of the Board at (619) 531-5434 or

ASSISTANCE FOR PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES: Contact the hearing secretary at (619) 517-4193 with questions or to request a disability-related accommodation. Individuals requiring sign language interpreters should contact the Countywide ADA Title II Coordinator at (619) 531-4908. Requests for accommodation or assistance should be submitted at least 72 hours in advance of the meeting so that arrangements may be made.

Subscribe to Project Updates

You can receive updates on the Organic Materials Ordinance Update project and other sustainability initiatives by signing up for email updates.