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Saturday, May 25, 2024
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New Green Bins – and a Bunch of Questions

NONPROFIT: Solana Center Helping Ease the SB 1383 Rollout

New green organic waste bins are showing up at homes across the San Diego region, sparking questions from residents who don’t have a full grasp on the initiative.

Jessica Toth
Executive Director
Solana Center for
Environmental
Innovation

“We have a lot of people contacting us asking what they’re supposed to be doing and whether we can explain it,”  said Solana Center for Environmental Innovation (Solana Center)  Executive Director  Jessica Toth. “We do have a long way to go. Most of my neighbors are not putting their food scraps in the green bins.”

Senate Bill 1383, which took effect on January 1, requires all residents and businesses to reduce the amount of organic waste they send to landfills.

The initiative aims at reducing statewide methane emissions with the overall goal of reducing organic waste in landfills by 75% in the next three years. Organic waste is defined as food scraps and food-soiled paper from kitchens, food operations and yard waste – like garden and landscape waste, organic textiles and carpets and wood waste.

Toth and her team at the Solana Center have been working across the county to raise awareness about the statewide rollout, which – in the City of San Diego – is overseen by the Environmental Services Department as part of its Organic Waste Recycling program. In January, the city began sending out green bins for weekly collection. Completion of the rollout is expected by mid-2023.

In an email, City of San Diego Director of the Environmental Services Department Renee Robertson verified that about 20% of City-serviced homes have received their new green bins.  Neighborhoods include Clairemont, Bay Park, Mountain View, Barrio Logan, Sherman Heights, Logan Heights, Bankers Hills, Mission Hills, Linda Vista and Serra Mesa.

“We understand that organic waste recycling is a big change and that some people may be reluctant or unsure about getting started. We recommend small steps at first, such as placing yard waste, coffee grounds or vegetable and fruit trimmings in the green bin and slowly building up to ‘ickier’ items like meat scraps or moldy cheese,” Robertson said. “We are noticing that some residents are using plastic bags in the green bin, but these are not acceptable as we want the material loose and ready to compost. We suggest using newspaper, paper towels or paper bags to wrap food scraps in or layer those items with yard trimmings in the green bin.”

“The city is focused on educating and empowering San Diegans to recycle their organic waste, which is the single easiest and fastest thing that every person can do to fight climate change,” she added.

Solana Center, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization headquartered in Encinitas, mobilizes the community through outreach and consulting services for individuals, businesses and jurisdictions to address pressing environmental issues and solutions. It serves as a critical resource for composting, pollution prevention, water conservation, rainwater harvesting and rain barrels, organic gardening, school waste diversion, recycling and sustainable living.

“We’ve seen an incredible explosion in the awareness of environmental issues,” said Toth. “We are now reaching about five times the number of people who we were reaching just ten years ago.”

Jessica Bombar
Education & Outreach
Manager
Solana Center for
Environmental

Solana Center  Education & Outreach  Manager  Jessica Bombar  added: “I think people are more and more coming to terms with the fact that there is real change in our climate. They’re asking what they can do, personally, to help.”

Now in its 40th year of operation, the Solana Center was recently awarded the national honor of Organics Diversion Program of the Year through the  US Composting Council. The Center offers several waste-prevention  programs and hands-on environmental education initiatives to arm the community with the solutions for leading a more sustainable, decarbonized lifestyle. This includes access to its tool lending library and recycling for difficult materials such as food, electronics and universal waste and plastics. Its Green Convene program rents out dishes, bowls, glasses and utensils for large events to cut down on single-use ware. The Center states the program prevents creation of approximately 500 pounds of trash per gathering of 100 people.

The Solana Center is  actively seeking  grants and  funding to launch a new electric home induction cooktop loaner program, a new textile waste recycling program, and  add bilingual signage to its Climate Solutions Resource Center in Encinitas.

“We’ve exponentially increased the number of contracts that we have with different jurisdictions throughout the county. We now work with 80 percent,” said Toth. “The organization has always been about meeting people where they are so through our contracts, we go to the farthest regions of the county. We’re out in Alpine and Borrego Springs and San Ysidro and Camp Pendleton.”

The Center is encouraging San Diego businesses to reach out for advice about increasing the sustainability of their operations. It’s offering free e-waste pickup services, ‘zero waste’ events, ‘lunch and learns’,  group volunteering experiences and food waste recovery and reduction consultation.

“We’re seeing people and businesses who are hungry to kick the tires and come see our center and learn what they can do for their own sustainable-living journey,” said Toth.

Solana Center for Environmental Innovation (Solana Center)

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR: Jessica Toth
FOUNDED:  Founded as Solana Recyclers in  1983
HEADQUARTERS: Encinitas
EMPLOYEES:  20
BUSINESS: Nonprofit
CONTACT:  info@solanacenter.org or (760) 436-7986  x700
NOTABLE:  In the past five years, the Solana Center has educated more than 70,000 San Diegans and helped to keep more than 3.4 million pounds of organic waste out of landfills.

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