Tackling C&D Waste

THE SAN DIEGO CITY COUNCIL has passed a construction and demolition (C&D) debris recycling ordinance. City officials have said the ordinance, which they expect to take effect in summer 2006, is intended to extend the life of San Diego's Miramar Landfill and to help the city meet state recycling mandates.

“C&D debris comprises about one-third of the trash buried in the Miramar Landfill — or about 400,000 tons yearly,” said Elmer Heap Jr., director of the city's Environmental Services Department (ESD), in a press release announcing the ordinance. “With the Miramar Landfill scheduled to close in only seven years, the C&D recycling ordinance is extremely important to extend the life of the only city-run landfill in San Diego.”

The C&D ordinance is multi-pronged. It will require a building and demolition permit applicant to pay a deposit based on the type and size of the applicant's project. The deposit will then be refunded depending on how much C&D material the applicant recycles during construction or demolition.

The ordinance will take effect 45 days after the city certifies that a facility in San Diego that accepts mixed (i.e., non-sorted) C&D debris has achieved a 50 percent diversion rate. At that point, those with building and demolition permits will have to document that they have recycled at least 50 percent of their C&D debris to receive a full refund. Then, 30 days after the city certifies that a facility accepting mixed C&D material has achieved a 75 percent diversion rate, permit holders will have to show that they have recycled 75 percent of their C&D debris to receive a full refund. The ordinance exempts pool, fence and retaining wall projects.

The city is currently working with a contractor to build a transfer station at the Miramar Landfill that will take in loads of mixed C&D waste, which will then be sorted and sold at the facility, according to ESD. Other, private facilities that will accept mixed C&D debris are pending, the department adds.

City officials have said they are planning to partner with building and demolition firms to launch an intensive education program to inform contractors about the ordinance before it takes effect. “We are committed to working together to prolong the life of the Miramar Landfill,” said Gary Halbert, director of San Diego's Development Services Department, in a statement released by the city.

In addition to its potential to increase the lifespan of the Miramar Landfill, San Diego officials are hoping the C&D ordinance will help them achieve a so-far elusive goal: the 50 percent recycling rate mandated by California's Integrated Waste Management Act, which became law in 1989. The law required that local governments attain a 50 percent diversion rate by 2000 or face fines of up to $10,000 a day. However, San Diego has received an extension to comply with the law.

According to ESD, the city currently has a 45 percent recycling rate.

San Diego is not the only city making C&D debris news. Responding to a development boom in the Windy City, Chicago will begin enforcing its own C&D recycling ordinance on Jan. 1.

Starting next year, general contractors must meet mandatory minimum recycling rates, or they will face fines. According to the regulations, a contractor that receives a building permit on or after Jan. 1, 2006, must recycle at least 25 percent by weight of the C&D waste produced by the C&D site. In January 2007, the mandatory minimum rate jumps to 50 percent.

If contractors fail to meet the requirements, the city will try to hurt them where their wallets are. For projects larger than 10,000 square feet, the Department of Streets and Sanitation will assess fines of $5,000 for each percentage point of difference between the actual recycling rate and the required rate. For smaller projects, the fines will equal $2,000 for each percentage point of difference. To prepare contractors for the upcoming requirements, Chicago has been conducting a series of free, two-hour seminars.