California Goal Rush

CALIFORNIA AND ITS JURISDICTIONS have always set the bar high for diversion rate goals. Accordingly, the city of El Cajon, Calif., passed a resolution in February adopting a goal of zero waste. The resolution was passed without opposition in hopes of dramatically decreasing the city's waste stream.

Zero waste, while commonly viewed as unattainable, refers to total landfill diversion. The San Diego County Integrated Waste Management Citizens Advisory Committee passed a zero-waste resolution in April 2006 and recommended similar policies for the county's cities.

“Zero waste has been gaining popularity statewide as the most logical approach to long-term resource management,” says Mark Lewis, mayor of El Cajon.

“It would be a miracle,” says Richard Anthony, a member of Zero Waste San Diego, a grassroots organization pursuing zero-waste policies in all 19 jurisdictions of San Diego County. “It's really more of a pathway to a realistic goal.”

According to the California Integrated Waste Management Act of 1989, cities and counties in the state must divert at least 50 percent of their generated waste. El Cajon's currently diverts 50 percent. The resolution calls for 75 percent diversion by 2010, but does not set a specific date for reaching zero waste.

Anthony, also a board member of the California Resource Recovery Association, believes the difference can be made up by using the organic waste currently sent to landfills to create compost that would benefit the state's farmers.

Other California communities that have adopted a zero-waste goal include the city and county of San Francisco, the cities of Oakland, Palo Alto, and Berkley, and the counties of Del Norte, San Luis Obispo, and Santa Cruz.