by Eva Elijas

Residents and businesses throughout Chula Vista may receive improper waste violations beginning January 1, 2022 as the city prepares for sustainability enforcement by 2024.

Senate Bill 1383 establishes methane emission reduction targets resulting from the decomposition of organic waste in landfills. This goes hand in hand with the city’s Waste Reduction Strategic plan and the state mandated food and waste organics program partnered with Republic Services. 

“For the next two years according to this regulation, we need to do extensive education. But after 2024, this regulation requires the city to start enforcing businesses and residents that do not comply” said Environmental Services Manager for the City of Chula Vista, Manuel Merdrano. “There will be people who don't want to comply, but we are doing our best to educate and help in compliance” he added.

Staff members from Environmental Services will visit businesses and residences to conduct “lid flipping” to monitor compliance of proper disposal practices in addition to working alongside businesses. Three key objectives for zero waste planning includes reducing the volume and toxicity of waste by eliminating them in the first place, using materials and products for their original intended uses then reuse them for other uses before recycling, and recycling or composting all remaining materials to their highest and best use after they have been reduced and reused as much as possible. “All of these tasks are interrelated in many ways because they have strong educational components to them to try to change the mindset of residents and businesses to think ‘zero waste’ and think about reusing these materials,” said Sustainability Specialist for the City of Chula Vista, Bob Coleman. 

The Waste Reduction Action plan was based on a goal based on the city’s 2017 Climate Action Plan to seek 90 percent waste diversion by 2035. The Waste Reduction Plan will continue to follow those waste diversion standards to create a cleaner environment with short to long term actions with completion rates spanning from three to eleven years. 

According to Merdrano, property owners are required per SB 1383 to have indoor containers for organic waste and for recyclable materials with signage. These containers may be accessed through the city and smaller kitchen caddies will be provided by Republic Services to residents. “Businesses are required to educate tenants and employees. If you have posters up, then that would be considered education” Medrano said. 

There will be many educational campaigns, seminars, webinars and workshops on recycling, composting and the reducing the use of toxic products. Further actions include the creation of a  “Zero Waste Champions” program that recognizes those community members practicing sustainability, collaborating with schools to activate zero waste teachings, creating a business certification program, and the adoption of zero waste guidelines.

“We are going to work with South County Economic Development Council organizations and also other jurisdictions. We want to help bring those recycling businesses to Chula Vista and in the South Bay,” Coleman said. “Fix-it clinics” will make a reappearance at city events after being on hold due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Further actions to promote zero waste includes having reuse stores in household hazardous waste facilities and adopting ordinances for single use plastic items in food establishments.

According to Coleman, a “Recycling Right Vision” for the city with multi-faced campaigns in order can divert valuable resources going into landfills. Food waste collection will begin in January for residents in their green yard waste bin that will be mixed together and taken to the Otay Landfill to create high quality compost. On-site audits to annually educate 15,000 businesses proper right-sizing service levels, which is education in trash sorting, and encourage to create in-house recycling plans. 

In 2019, the Otay Landfill saw 203,968 tons of waste deposited. With the full implementation of zero waste actions, the estimated tons diverted is equivalent to 8,481 Republic Services trash trucks loads. According to Merdrano, a new solar powered facility at the Otay Landfill will create quite a bit of compost once completed. Implementation of an Organic Food Waste Recovery and Management is also required as a part of SB 1383, working alongside larger businesses for the first two years that could produce edible food waste for food insecure populations. There is a statewide goal of 20 percent to divert edible food from landfills, though the city’s partnership with CalRecycle will establish a city wide goal within a few years. 

“Businesses who are going to be producing this food will need to have an agreement with an edible food recovery organization with some parameters to make sure there's no donation dumping,” Merdrano said. SB 1383 makes sure that food and organic waste generators are diverting their waste in the landfill. Some flexibility is granted to this program as establishments producing less than 20 gallons a week of food or organic waste will not be required to participate. Copies of the Zero Waste Action plan and the Climate Action Plan are available as hard copies at library branches and online.

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