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Legal Ease: Recycling in San Diego

San Diego is known as a clean and healthy city with a history of environmentally friendly programs. The current recycling program is a natural fit for the city’s image and its goal of minimizing the impact that the growing population has on the natural beauty we all enjoy. The new year brings an important development in the law governing San Diego’s recycling program.

For many years, recycling was a voluntary activity encouraged by small payments received when certain items were delivered to recycling centers. On November 13, 2007, San Diego’s CIty Council passed ordinance (O-19678), which made recycling a legal requirement for individuals and businesses. This new ordinance required items such as plastic, glass, metal containers, aluminum foil, newspaper and cardboard to be recycled. Because of the cost associated with implementing such a comprehensive program, the city mandated recycling in several phases.

Beginning in February 2008, single family homes, apartments with over 100 units and businesses occupying 20,000 square feet or more, were required to offer recycling. As of January 2009, apartments with at least 50 units and businesses occupying 10,000 square feet or more were required to recycle.

As of this coming January 1, 2010, all San Diego apartments, condominiums and businesses are required to recycle.

Property managers are encouraged to inform tenants about the types of items that can and cannot be recycled. As a general rule, items that have the well known “triangle” can be recycled; however, there are exceptions to this rule. One notable exception is styrofoam. Technically styrofoam can be recycled, so you will see the triangle stamped on it, but the facilities serving San Diego are unable to process styrofoam materials, so they are discarded as trash.

Another common misconception is that metal or paper items with food residue, such as pizza boxes, cannot be recycled. This is not true. You should do your best to remove the food from the recyclable items, but items with food residue can still be recycled.

So, why should you recycle? Does it really save the environment or provide any tangible benefit? The answer to both questions is YES! Whether you are a rabid environmentalist or a fiscal conservative, there are reasons for you to recycle.

First, recycling can lower your trash bill by reducing the number of required pick-ups.

Second, the Miramar landfill will be full by 2012. When it is full, finding a new location for San Diego’s rubbish will be an expensive endeavor that will be passed on to taxpayers. Recycling can delay this expense.

Third, recycling conserves our resources. Recycling one soda can saves enough energy to power a television for three hours.

Finally, it is the law and you are committing a crime if you chose to ignore it.

You can learn more about San Diego’s recycling by clicking hereor by contacting customer service at (858) 694-7000.

Ted A. Bonanno is a California licensed attorney with a Masters Degree in Business Administration. He previously served as an attorney for the U.S. Marine Corps in Iraq and spent several years working for the San Diego office of a global law firm. Ted has a general business practice in La Jolla where he lives with his wife and daughter.