DEL MAR — Designated as generators of more solid waste per capita than any other city in San Diego County, Del Marians are getting a little better at getting rid of their trash.
In the eight months since refuse collection converted from small crates with manual pickup to wheeled carts emptied by clean-and-green automated trucks, trash volume is down 6 percent and recycling is up 16 percent.
“They’re getting more bang for their buck with those carts,” Lori Somers, from Waste Management, told council members at their Feb. 4 meeting.
“It’s good news but it’s certainly not great news,” Councilman Don Mosier said, noting the city needed a 50 percent diversion rate to meet the county average.
A Jan. 26 recycling event helped, as 122 residents dropped off more than 2 tons of documents to be destroyed.
Somers said that was double what was shred during a similar event last June. Also collected were 49 pounds of medications — up 16 pounds from the June event — 62 pounds of sharps, 60 pounds of compact fluorescent light bulbs, 30 pounds of fluorescent tubes and 233 pounds of household batteries.
Somers said the battery numbers were down, likely because they are now collected curbside when put in clear plastic zipper bags on top of the recycling cart.
She said bulky item pickup, including electronic waste and clothing, can be scheduled, and Waste Management is working on a program to provide residents with free mulch for their gardens.
An informational package will be ready before summer for landlords to pass onto summer renters, who tend to generate large amounts of trash and recyclable materials.
Somers said the next target is the business community. She is working with city staff on strategies to increase commercial recycling “because that’s one of the biggest areas that has the biggest impact.”
Of the 98 businesses that are Waste Management customers, Somers said 64, or about 65 percent, are recycling.
Businesses that create more than 4 cubic yards of trash are recycling three-fourths of their waste. But those that generate less than 3 cubic yards are at a 50 percent rate.
“There’s still quite a few of those (smaller businesses) that are not (recycling),” Somers said. “Those are next to be targeted.”
Somers said she is also working with city staff to provide postage-paid mail-back kits for anyone who wants to recycle needles.
Mosier said he had concerns with that aspect of the program because it could create issues with medical privacy laws.
“It has to be done in a sensitive way … to meet federal regulations (unless) people want to bring them down voluntarily,” he said. “It’s a little bit of a difficult problem to solve but I think the city should be the one that solves it.”