District 2 councilmember Kevin Faulconer announced Tuesday that he plans to use $80,000 of discretionary funds to continue a long-standing program of supplemental trash pick-up in Mission Beach during the summer months. The program, which fell to budget cuts early this year, had provided two trash pick-ups per week during the summer in Mission Beach. The community does not have a curbside recycling program and annually experiences a dramatic population increase between Memorial Day and Labor Day accompanied by an increase in trash.
After July 2010 the supplemental summer trash pick-ups – which costs the city approximately $58,500 per year – will be replaced by a recycling program. A specially designed truck will be purchased to navigate the narrow alleyways of Mission Beach. Chris Gonaver, director of the Environmental Services Department, said the city currently has one such truck known as an “AlleyCat.” That truck is already occupied with trash collections in Mission Beach and parts of Downtown that also have narrow alleyways. The new truck, which will be dedicated to the recycling program, will cost the city an estimated $500,000 that includes blue recycling containers for Mission Beach’s roughly 3,500 residences. Faulconer’s office estimates that the program will cost approximately $90,000 annually thereafter.
Citywide the recycling program costs approximately $9 million and generated almost $7 million in revenue from the recycled materials in 2008, according to San Diego City Waste Reduction Program Manager Stephen Grealy.
“Last year we collected 80,000 tons of commodities,” said Grealy referring to the recyclable elements of the trash. He anticipates that the city will collect about the same tonnage this year but that the revenue will be lower.
“With the commodities markets the way they are, we are anticipating only $4.5 million in revenue this year,” Grealy said.
Mission Beach residents opted out of the curbside program in 2000. According to Kip Sturdevan of the Environmental Services Department, the Mission Beach Town Council requested drop-off sites instead.
“I went to one of the meetings where we described the recycling program (we wanted them to be part of it) and they decided against it, asking that we provide more drop-off sites instead,” Sturdevan said. “The rationale on their part was twofold: First they wanted more money for their community centers (the proceeds from the drop-off sites went to their Park and Recreation council) and they felt it would be too many containers in their alleys.”
Residents want curbside recycling now, however, and attribute much of the additional trash to visitors staying in weekly condo rentals. Bill Bradshaw of the Mission Beach Town Council feels confident that most of these visitors will take the time to separate their recyclables from the trash.
“Some will, others won’t,” said the 78-year-old Mission Beach resident as he unloaded recyclables from his truck during his weekly trip to the recycling drop-off point on Santa Clara Drive. “It’s not nearly as cumbersome anymore now that you can put them all into one can instead of separate glass, metal and paper containers. Most of them are used to doing it at home anyway.”
Some residents question whether the 10.5 percent Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) charged on all rentals of less than one month’s duration could be used to supplement the trash collection. It makes sense to many residents since the source of the additional trash seems obvious to them.
“The population of Mission Beach triples during the summer,” said Mission Beach Town Council member Bob Craig. “Of course we have many vacation rentals. They are everyone who enjoys vacationing at the beach, lots of Arizona people, of course.”
As Faulconer and Mayor Jerry Sanders stood before a bank of cameras and reporters in Mission Beach to announce the new recycling plans, a disheveled man with long unkempt hair, a scruffy beard and a mouth full of broken teeth stood in the background. Mike Howell is a homeless man with a less than subtle hint of alcohol on his breath when he speaks. He said that he will be 50 in September, but he looks much younger than that, especially for someone who claims to have lived outside, in and around the parks and beaches of Mission Bay, since 2000. He said that he spends about an hour and a half each day collecting recyclables from the trashcans in the area to generate about $20 a day in “lunch money.” He complained bitterly about being ticketed for scavenging recyclable metal and plastic containers from the city’s black, wheeled trashcans in the only neighborhood in the city that does not have a curbside recycling program.
“If people are going to put it in the trash and it’s going to go straight to the landfill, how can you be mad at me for picking it up?”Howell said.
For years, a symbiotic relationship has existed between beach-goers and people like Howell who scour the beach for discarded recyclable aluminum cans, plastic containers and bottles. The practice helps to keep the beach clean and is so common that Grealy said the city abandoned a project to place recycling containers on the sand.
“When we got the containers back to the depot, there was nothing of value left in them,” Grealy said.
With the year-old alcohol ban in place, people like Howell are having to search through the trashcans in the lanes and alleys of Mission Beach for recyclables. When asked how the new recycling program will affect him, he scoffed and said that he doubts many visitors will bother to separate their trash. Even if they do, Howell said with a wry smile, it will merely make it easier for him to gather his daily quota from the new blue bins.