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Solana Beach council amends ordinance for organic waste enforcement

SOLANA BEACH — Solana Beach City Council approved an amendment to its municipal code this week to be in compliance with new state laws regarding organic waste disposal while leaving waiver opportunities for businesses.

Senate Bill 1383, signed into law in 2016, becomes enforceable in January of 2022. The law was designed to limit the amount of organic waste in landfills which is a leading cause of methane emission into the atmosphere.

Methane is a greenhouse gas more powerful than carbon dioxide and is a leading contributor to climate change.

Solana Beach is one of several North County cities that contract their waste disposal with EDCO who already has an anaerobic digestion facility in place to process organic waste in compliance with the new state law.

The new enforceable ordinance includes waivers for certain businesses that cannot comply with the organics disposal. Waivers are given for three specific reasons; if the business does not produce enough organic waste, if they do not have the physical space for organic waste containers on-site or if they do not have enough waste to need weekly collections.

“It’s always at our discretion whether we grant them or not but there may be situations that come up that make it very difficult for businesses to comply so this is just some flexibility to enforce the ordinance,” said Rimga Viskanta, a member of the Solana Beach city staff.

CalRecycle, or the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery, will have the authority to fine jurisdictions that are not in compliance with the new state law but allowing these waivers in the city ordinance should give the city flexibility.

“If CalRecycle does an audit and determines that we aren’t taking enough enforcement action then they can, in turn, fine us. And it can go up to $10,000 a day. Hopefully, they’ll give you a chance to rectify anything but I think having the flexibility is important,” Viskanta said.

Jim Ambroso, general manager for EDCO, says the new ordinance for Solana Beach is comprehensive and allows for the needed enforcement to become compliant with SB 1383.

“Other cities are doing the same thing and many of them are having some difficult times with it but the staff here has done a really good job,” Ambroso said. “There is a lot of work yet to be done as we move forward with implementation. But this is a very important step for the city to take which gives the whole program authenticity and the ability to implement with enforcement someday.”

EDCO is the only residential and commercial waste company in North County with a dedicated facility for organic waste which makes the process much less difficult for cities that contract with them.

Mayor Lesa Heebner asked the question this week what cities that do not contract with EDCO will do to become in compliance with the state law.

“My guess is they may have no other choice but to reach out and contract with EDCO,” City Manager Greg Wade said. “I believe they are setting themselves up to have enough capacity to handle some of that. But they seem to be the only ones in the neighborhood to be preparing in the right way for this.”