Climate Action Plan - Measure SW-1.1
Solid Waste Diversion
The County aims to achieve 80% solid waste diversion rate by 2030. Currently, construction and demolition debris and organic materials (including food scraps and yard trimmings) make up almost 70% of unincorporated county waste going to landfill. The County aims to divert more of these types of materials from landfill by implementing the County’s Strategic Plan to Reduce Waste.
- 2030 Target: Achieve 80% solid waste diversion in the unincorporated county
Where are we going?
Since the State passed Assembly Bill (AB) 939, California’s Integrated Waste Management Act, the County has implemented numerous recycling and organics collection and diversion programs and policies to increase the unincorporated county’s waste diversion rate. As a result, the County’s diversion rate increased from 48% in 1995 to 60% in 2019, just below the statewide rate of 62%. With construction and demolition (C&D) debris accounting for up to 34% of waste that is sent to landfill, the County adopted a Construction & Demolition Debris Recycling Ordinance to increase the diversion of C&D debris.
The Department of Public Works (DPW) is implementing the Strategic Plan to Reduce Waste to reduce the need for new landfills, lower greenhouse gas emissions from waste decomposition and the transportation of waste to landfills, and conserve energy. Aligning with State requirements, the County aims to increase the waste diversion rate to 75% by 2025, and 80% waste diversion by 2030.
The Strategic Plan to Reduce Waste contains over 15 individual programs and initiatives focused on waste prevention, reuse, repair, recycling, composting, and more. Targeted materials for diversion include traditional recyclables, yard trimmings, food scraps, compostable paper, and construction and demolition debris.
The County plans to achieve the 80% waste diversion target by updating franchise hauler agreements related to the collection of recyclable materials and construction and demolition debris and amending County land use and zoning regulations to allow more organics collection and processing within the unincorporated county. Additional efforts include supporting food waste prevention, expanding food donation programs, standardizing commercial and residential waste collection services, and expanding technical and household hazardous waste recycling services.
The Department of Public Works takes a creative approach in working with schools, community groups, businesses, and residents to find individualized solutions for their specific needs. DPW provides training and education, equipment for recycling, and information on food donation. DPW also provides feedstock, siting, and permit assistance to those interested in starting or expanding recycling processing infrastructure.
How is this measured?
Since 1990, the County estimates its annual diversion rate using methodology established by the state. Currently, waste in the unincorporated areas includes 34% construction and demolition debris, 34% organics, and 23% recyclables as the three major sources of waste, most of which is recoverable. By diverting more recyclables, organic materials including food scraps, and construction and demolition debris, the County plans to reach the diversion rate of 80% by 2030. Greenhouse gas emissions occur when organic materials decompose in an anaerobic environment producing methane, a greenhouse gas 85 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Greenhouse gas emissions are calculated based on the total amount of waste landfilled and the percent of organic content within the landfilled waste. Reducing the amount of organic material within landfills leads to a reduction in total greenhouse gas emissions from this sector.
Why is this important?
Achieving 80% waste diversion will benefit unincorporated county residents and businesses by improving and simplifying recycling services, decreasing the costs of disposal by providing more materials recovery opportunities, increasing access to household hazardous waste services, increasing recycling and donation events, and expanding the life of existing landfills. Diverting materials from landfill decreases greenhouse gas and transportation emissions, disposal fees, and pollution that results from landfill operations.
Composting organic materials avoids methane production and results in valuable soil amendments such as compost and mulch. When applied to local farms, compost and mulch help build healthy soil that is better equipped to take carbon from the atmosphere into the soil through sequestration. Increasing organic materials collection and processing within the unincorporated county will also provide new business opportunities, spur local compost and mulch markets, and return important nutrients and moisture back to the soil naturally within a closed loop system.