After EDCO’s plant was built, the City initially ignored pleas from the company to raise the gate fees at Miramar. South had expected quicker action from the City, but he’s happy with the recent fee increase and deposit requirement. “The combination of the two is pretty significant and will add to the life of Miramar and add to the amount of reusable products leaving our facility.”
Not everyone is as happy. Zane Williams, of Big Zane’s Hauling, says the price increase puts more of a strain on a business already stretched by soaring gas prices. Williams has hauled stuff for over 12 years. He drives all across the county in his longbed pickup truck, collecting construction waste and other debris and taking it to the dump. He uses both Miramar and EDCO’s plant, depending on the part of the county he’s in. The fee increase at Miramar has forced him to raise his prices. “It’s killing us,” he says. “You know, we are trying to make an honest living, and for the City to raise prices, it just makes it hard on us. Me, honestly, I’ve had to show my customers the price sheet from the dump just to show them why my prices are what they are. And with all these foreclosures, there’s constant demolition and remodeling going on. I don’t know how it’s going to turn out. You know, I see a grim future, because not everyone’s going to continue taking stuff to the dump, and who knows what they’ll do with it.”
Other haulers and demolition companies have taken the initiative with recycling. Dan Cannon, president of Dirt Cheap Demolition, encourages his crews to set aside salvageable material. According to Cannon, some days he saves nearly two tons. “We try and separate lumber, sinks, toilets, and cabinetry from going into the regular trash,” Cannon says. “We keep the reusable stuff for later use, and we’ve actually created a nonprofit that takes some of the stuff to poor neighborhoods in Tijuana. Every day when we do work, we salvage stuff. Why would I pay by the pound to throw something perfectly good out? It doesn’t make sense to me. Plus, most owners like to see us save most of the stuff, so it works out for both of us.”
Cannon’s company is one of the few that have been faithful customers of EDCO’s recycling plant since it opened. “What we take to EDCO is truly trash, like small scrap pieces of wood and broken drywall,” Cannon says. “We take any bricks and concrete to the recycler as well.”
Cannon believes that one way the City could divert construction and demolition waste from Miramar would be to have a salvage pile at the landfill. “One of the problems with a government-run landfill is they don’t allow for scavenging,” he says. “There are all kinds of construction materials that people throw out that are still good.”
Contractors aren’t the only ones being proactive. On the same day the City of San Diego adjusted the price for demolition-waste dumping, the City of Chula Vista adopted a seven-measure plan that mandated use of recycled and renewable construction materials, as well as the use of alternative energy sources. The plan urged residents and businesses to replace their lawns with rocks or shrubs and encouraged businesses and homeowners to participate in a solar-power energy program. Chula Vista is the only city south of Los Angeles to adopt these “green” building regulations.
Leo Miras, policy advocate for the Environmental Health Coalition, the group that developed the plan for Chula Vista, explains some of the general reasons the City of San Diego is slow to take the initiative on environmental policies. “San Diego tends to not be the most progressive, in terms of environmental policies,” he says. “I think it’s due to a variety of issues. We are all especially sensitive to the energy issue, and we’ve lost some focus from using alternative sources. Also, we are so dependent on the housing market, and there is a worry that any increase in requirements will hurt the developers and hurt the housing market even more so than it already is.”
EDCO’s South commends the City of San Diego for its recent price adjustment at Miramar: already more construction waste is being diverted from the landfill.
But Anthony of the citizens’ advisory committee says the City needs to stay committed. “We don’t need more ordinances,” he says. “We need enforcement. We need public education and implementation. We need to let people know that these are the rules and enforce them.”