Developers have spent decades and tens of millions of dollars fighting to build a dump in pristine Gregory Canyon. NRDC, the Pala Band of Mission Indians, and a broad coalition of California tribes, local environmental groups, elected officials, scientists, and concerned citizens have challenged the proposal at every turn. If built, the north San Diego County landfill would desecrate Native American sacred sites, destroy threatened and endangered species’ habitat, create traffic hazards, and imperil the San Luis Rey River and local groundwater. These factors make the project a terrible idea, but, if constructed, the dump would be worse than that: it’d be tragic. Because it is not needed.
The data is in and the results are irrefutable. New numbers released by the California Department of Resources Recovery and Recycling (CalRecycle) confirm that San Diego County and the State of California continued in 2012 to move away from disposing of their trash in landfills—a form of waste management that is rapidly becoming an anachronism—and towards alternative methods of waste management.
Credit: Waukesha County
CalRecycle reports that in 2012, California's 37.7 million residents disposed of about 29.3 million tons of solid waste for a statewide per capita disposal rate of approximately 4.3 lbs/person/day. Per resident disposal in 2012 was the lowest since disposal reporting began in 1989. In the last 7 years alone, Californians have reduced the amount they personally throw away by an average of 2 lbs a day.
In San Diego County, the amount of waste generated in 2012 was approximately 170 tons less than in 2011 and less than in every year since 1997.
The trend was the same in neighboring Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, and Imperial counties where the amount of waste generated in 2012 was the smallest amount of waste generated in more than a decade. For example, in Los Angeles County, the amount of waste generated in 2012 was approximately 91,000 tons less than in 2011 and approximately 3.5 million tons less than in 1995.
The data show that Southern Californians are diverting materials from landfills and using alternative forms of waste management. Recycling, composting, and reuse are the mainstream, and annual statewide diversion rates are on an impressive and steady rise—reaching their highest rate yet (66%) in 2012.
These findings are in line with a recent flurry of articles that have reported a decline in landfilled trash and a surge in recycling in San Diego. One article, reported that recycling in the City of San Diego has risen from 29% in 1991 to 69% last year, and that the City is struggling to keep pace with overflowing blue recycle bins.
The developer, Gregory Canyon LLC, continues to claim San Diego needs this landfill. But CalRecycle data show that since 2005 the amount of waste disposed by San Diego County residents has declined by more than 25% or 1 million tons. And it continues to decline.
The proponents of the proposed Gregory Canyon landfill should let go of this dinosaur project, stop hiding behind fallacious numbers, and embrace the greener, cleaner present. Our blue bins are full. We don’t need to pile trash on a sacred mountain or in a verdant canyon.