San Diego residents, businesses, and homeowners associations will soon be facing a significant increase in their trash disposal costs. These costs are projected to rise by a staggering 30% in the next 12 months, with estimates suggesting they could double within the next 36 months. There are four main reasons why we expect to see these drastic increases: the trickle-down effect of mandatory organics recycling implementation, the lack of competition in the market, increase landfill dump fees, and inflation.
In September 2016, SB 1383 was signed into law. This law requires that both residential and commercial waste producers reduce their organic waste material by 75% by 2025. If you’ve been paying attention, you’ve probably noticed green organics bins mysteriously appearing at houses, multi-family buildings and places of business. That is because SB 1383’s timeline states that starting in 2022, all jurisdictions will need to provide organic waste collection services to all residents and businesses and recycle these organic materials.
It's important to note that these new regulations are being put in place to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate the effects of climate change. “When landfilled, organic waste—materials such as leaves, grass, agricultural crop residues, and food scraps—generates methane, which has a heat-trapping effect about 80 times greater than carbon dioxide over a 20-year timeline” (Cal-Reycle). By reducing the amount of organic waste going to landfills, it helps reduce the amount of methane gas produced and released into the atmosphere.
While this is a noble goal, the trickle-down effects of passing such a bill are enormous. We can debate environmental cost-benefit all day long and still come to an impasse. However, the truth remains: there is most definitely an economic cost to such a large-scale program implementation. The infrastructure needed to effectively implement and maintain this program is quite costly. Haulers are adding a 3rd waste stream to their service. This requires new trucks, more drivers, more containers and new organics processing facilities - to name just a few pieces of the puzzle.
San Diego, despite having years worth of notice, has not taken the necessary steps to ease their residents and businesses into this transition. For instance, there is only one organics processing facility in the county, and it is privately owned. It is not big enough to handle the volume for the entire county. This means that some waste haulers are having to truck their organics material to other parts of the state or even to facilities outside of the state. The implementation of this third waste stream has left trash haulers with no choice but to charge more in order to build the massive infrastructure required to service San Diego's organic recycling needs.
Another factor contributing to the increase in trash collection costs in San Diego is the limited number of hauler permits. This has created a situation where a few large haulers dominate the market, leaving homeowners with few options for choosing a trash collection service. This lack of competition has enabled these large haulers to control prices, leading to higher costs for homeowners. The situation has been exacerbated in recent years by the acquisition of smaller competing haulers by larger companies. Reduced competition will drive up prices.
The escalating cost of waste disposal services is being driven up further by the proposed rise in landfill tipping fees. The city-owned Miramar landfill, which currently accepts about 1.4 million tons of waste annually, will have to start composting large amounts of food waste at the site, requiring a substantial investment in equipment and infrastructure. The city has proposed to raise the tipping fees at the landfill by as much as 71% by 2025, starting in July of this year. This increase will also have a domino effect on the tipping fees charged by other landfills in San Diego, which are owned by Republic Services. The impact of this proposed increase in landfill tipping fees will be felt by all San Diego residents, businesses, and homeowners associations.
Finally, the staggering rate of inflation is also contributing to the extreme rise in trash prices. Prices of goods and services across all industries are on the rise. The waste and recycling industry is no exception: fuel, labor, cost of goods, processing fees, etc. have all increased dramatically. Waste haulers have no choice but to increase their prices to keep up with the staggering rate of inflation.
Residents of San Diego and across the state of California must brace themselves for a significant increase in trash collection costs in the coming months. The best thing residents and business owners can do to mitigate their costs is to look for ways to reduce their waste and recycle as much as possible. This can include simple steps such as composting food scraps at home, using reusable containers instead of disposable ones, properly disposing of yard waste, reducing food waste through proper inventory management, and donating excess food to food recovery organizations.
While the rising cost of waste disposal services may be an unwelcome expense, it is also an opportunity to re-evaluate our waste disposal habits and find ways to reduce our waste generation. By doing so, we can not only help reduce our costs but also contribute to a cleaner, healthier environment.
At Global Disposal, we are dedicated to aiding our clients in reducing their waste expenses through the development of effective waste initiatives that adhere to state and local regulations. Don't hesitate to reach out to us if you have any questions.