by Photo Jose Antonio Avilés

Republic Services houses California’s first fully-solar powered compost facility with the capacity to recycle 100 tons of food and organic yard waste for San Diego county. 

Chula Vista’s new Otay Compost Facility will help communities meet the requirements of a new state law, Senate Bill 1383, known as the Short Lived Climate Pollutant Reduction Bill, mandating diversion of organic food and yard waste from landfills will take effect on Jan.1, 2022. 

"Republic Services has made a long-term commitment to increase the recycling and circularity of key materials like organics from the waste stream," said Pete Keller, vice president of recycling and sustainability. "Recycling organic waste into compost is one of the many ways we're providing sustainable solutions to our customers in the San Diego region, and we continue to invest in organic infrastructure across California."

Composting operations are completely solar powered at the site, in addition to fans that aerate the organic material as well as oxygen and temperature sensors. The Otay Compost Facility has industry-leading compost technology with plans to double the capacity by the end of the year.  

"It is the first and only plant that operates entirely with solar energy and with an automatic system for composting" said Marcos Cervantes, General Environmental manager at the Otay landfill.

Otay Mesa Compost Facility will process 100 tons of organic material daily, but the goal is to double that production by the end of 2021.

"Computers, AC system, everything runs with solar energy, we have 43 solar kilowatts and 180 solar panels in total", explained Chris Seney, Director of Organic Operations for Republic Services.

For the mayor of Chula Vista this project will allow to reduce gas emissions locally and will benefit the state as well. "Spaces like this in California will allow the state to comply with the waste requirements and this program will help create technical jobs in our region", declared Mary Casillas Salas, Mayor of Chula Vista.

Republic Services was recognized as the Industry's 2020 Organics Recycler of the year. According to the company, it operates 12 compost facilities in five states, and recycled more than 2.15 billion pounds of food and yard waste last year. 

Annual reporting will be submitted to the Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) who will oversee compliance with SB1383. This food and waste collection system with an initial cost of over $11 million has a target goal of 75 percent statewide reduction in the disposable organic waste in landfills by 2025.  

According to David DiDonato, a recycling specialist for the Chula Vista Office of Sustainability, SB 1383 targets several climate pollutants, but the organic waste management sector focuses on methane, which is generated by the burial of organic matter. This bill, according to DiDonato, is going to create thousands of new Green Jobs throughout the state.  

 A  2015 Waste Characterization Study found almost 75 percent of Chula Vista’s waste stream is compostable and nearly 29 percent of this waste stream is food waste. The City of Chula Vista hopes to achieve 90 percent waste diversion by 2035.  

The implementation of a Waste Reduction Strategic plan was included in the city’s Climate Action Plan, which serves as the basis for detailed and measurable zero waste plan strategies and actions. The city’s plan exceeds California’s goal of 75 percent within the same timeframe with tasks containing specific actions and includes the estimated reductions of corresponding greenhouse gas emissions.  

Three objectives for zero waste planning include 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. 

Educational campaigns and outreach will be launched to residents, businesses, state agencies and local educational facilities to teach modes of participation and the acceptable guidelines of SB 1383.  

“There is a process to educate, educate, educate and that has been the philosophy of this city and the state since the early 1990’s. We have never fined businesses but now with this law, we will be required to fine those non-compliant businesses” DiDonato said.  

Compliance will be monitored with the requirements of SB 1383. The state will require cities to fine non compliant residents in businesses beginning 2024. According to DiDonato, businesses need to begin a service with Republic Services or do their own hauls per compliance with the legislation in addition to partnering with food recovery services.  

“We hope that residents can help us with these initiatives. There are a lot of opportunities to volunteer and to also help us spread the word out so I hope that residents can help by visiting our website to learn more about zero waste practices,” Chula Vista Environmental Services Manager Manuel Medrano said. 

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