Waste Not, Want Not

With significant and costly new State requirements coming into play, including mandatory diversion of food and other organic waste, and with the City’s 10-year contract with Waste Management for solid waste disposal services expiring on June 30, 2022, the City has issued a Request for Proposals bid package to solicit proposals for the next long-term (10-year) solid waste franchise agreement. Bids must be submitted by Nov. 11.


The current value of the franchise weighs in at $13 million over ten years, so this is “one of the City’s highest valued contracts,” a city staff report noted, with the cost ultimately borne by Del Mar ratepayers. High on the list of City goals: competitive rates and excellent customer service, and compliance with the new State regulations and the City’s Climate Action Plan, which includes minimizing the amount of waste landfilled, moving toward Zero Waste (95% diversion from landfill disposal) by 2035.


Both Waste Management, the current hauler, and Edco, which currently provides service to Solana Beach, Encinitas, and Escondido, among others, are expected to submit bids, and potentially others. The big unknown is how bidders will assess the costs of complying with the new State requirements. Another issue that was touched on in Council discussion is the potentially big variation among bidders in travel distance for diversion of food and other organic waste. Other cities that have recently gone through this process have seen customer rates going up 20%, sometimes more, primarily because of the new State requirements.


About 30% of the total waste currently going to the landfill is organic waste, which then becomes a significant source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, emitted as methane gas, which is worse than CO2 in its impact on climate change. The positive environmental and economic impact from these GHG reductions, it is anticipated, will offset the cost of the organics diversion. And diverting these organics from landfills will defer the sizable costs of siting and creating additional landfills.


Del Mar and all California cities will be instituting mandatory edible food recovery programs, to facilitate diverting edible food from the waste stream, and allowing its use, for example, by nonprofits providing food to the needy.


In the City’s online survey of customers, “environmental sustainability” and “customer service” were rated higher than “low rates.” The mandatory diversion of food waste raised concerns about odor and pests, but, almost equally, concerns about contributing to climate change through inaction. Customers will place food waste in the same bin with yard and other organic waste. The timetable: evaluations of the submitted bids and interviews will occur in November and December. Following negotiations in December and January, the City Council is scheduled to approve the agreement in February 2022, with the transition to the new agreement taking place Feb.-June, and the selected contractor beginning service under the new agreement on July 1, 2022.