Evan Matzen, Manager, Sustainability

Landfill Visit

Do you know what happens to your trash after you throw it in the garbage? Yes, it goes to landfill, but do you really know what happens to your waste?

Three members of our Sustainability Department recently took a trip to the local landfill in San Diego, California, and talked trash with some of the folks working there. They were met by Dennis Williams, the public information officer for San Diego’s Department of Environmental Services. The Miramar Landfill, located on 1,500 acres in the heart of San Diego County, is the city’s only active landfill and takes in almost 910,000 tons of waste every year.

Trucks at the Landfill

My team tells me that they were impressed, but not surprised, by the amount of activity at the landfill. Trucks were lined up to enter the landfill. Each had to stop at a booth to pay a hauler’s fee based on the contents of the truck and the total weight of the contents.

They visited the landfill specifically to learn about the steps the city has taken to reduce the landfill’s impact on the environment. Dennis highlighted the many initiatives that the city has implemented in order to minimize the landfill’s impact on the environment. The Miramar Landfill was the first municipal landfill to be certified under the ISO 14001 standards for environmental management, which serve as a framework for aligning a business with sustainable policy. Two of the more impressive environmental aspects of the landfill include:

  • Capturing the landfill gas (mostly methane) to power 90% of the nearby waste water treatment facility
  • Collecting pallets and other wood, food waste from a community-wide composting program, and landscaping waste in an area called the Greenery to generate wood chips, mulch, and compost that is sold back to the community at a reduced cost


San Diego has a very robust composting program and many other communities are trying it across the country. Not only does the Greenery reduce our collective negative environmental impact, it is also structured in a way to make it less expensive to dispose of compostable waste than dumping it in the landfill.

Composting at the Landfill


For waste haulers and the public, the disposal fee is $22 per ton compared to disposing municipal solid waste, which costs $52 per ton plus other fees. A recycling specialist at the Greenery said the Greenery’s prices will only come down as more and more waste companies participate in the composting program.

Despite their best efforts, the most recent waste survey estimated that 20% of the Miramar Landfill’s waste is organic matter, and Dennis estimated that close to two-thirds of all the waste is eligible for recycling or to be composted. To combat this, the San Diego City Council recently allocated funds to construct a presorting facility in an effort to get closer to zero waste for the city and has put resources toward educating the public.


Once the landfill is full, the cost of trash disposal will increase because trucks will have to haul waste farther away to a different landfill. Additionally, the city will have to pay for a third party to manage the new site, because there isn’t another site available that the city can control. San Diego is incentivized to keep this site open as long as possible, and diverting waste from the landfill through recycling and composting programs is a great way to maximize the efficiency of waste disposal. Why put things in the landfill that don’t belong there? The recycling center and Greenery also serve as an income generator for the city because they sell the end commodity, whether it be compost for gardens or cardboard for recycling, and that money could be lost if the Miramar Landfill is closed.

What Can You Do to Reduce Waste?

I think that to accurately talk about waste reduction, you have to know why we should lower the amount of disposables we consume and where it all goes. Make sure you know what can and can’t be recycled. I find that more and more of what I consume has some form of recyclable packaging, and I always make sure it gets into the correct recycling bin. And don’t forget to look for opportunities to reduce your waste, both landfill and recycling. Could you use a mug instead of disposable cups? How about buying concentrated cleaning chemicals to reduce package waste?


Take a look in your garbage can right now. What do you see? Can any of it be recycled or even used again?


Enjoy this article? Share it on social! For questions, comments, or post suggestions, please contact us!

There are no comments so far

Leave a Comment

Don't worry. We never use your email for spam.

Don't worry. We never use your email for spam.