San Diego shares tips for using new green bins as La Jolla roll-out nears completion

A green bin and kitchen pail are freshly delivered in La Jolla Shores.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

The organic-waste bin comes with a kitchen pail to store food scraps until emptying it in the green receptacle for pickup.


By the end of the month, La Jolla residents should get delivery of a green bin and a kitchen pail from the city of San Diego’s organic-waste recycling program for food scraps, food-soiled paper and yard trimmings.

Andrea Deleon, San Diego’s interim collections services program manager, said the organic waste program has been gradually rolled out to help the city reach the goals outlined in California Senate Bill 1383, which requires all residents and businesses to reduce organic waste that otherwise would be sent to a landfill.

The city also will deliver kitchen pails to help residents comply with a new state law requiring organic waste recycling. Pickups begin for some next month.

Dec. 12, 2022

According to the city, when organic waste decomposes in a landfill, it releases methane, a harmful gas that traps the sun’s heat and contributes to climate change. Recycling organic waste is expected to result in compost or clean energy and help reduce the effects of climate change, the city says.

In recent months, San Diego residents have received a small kitchen pail to collect in-home waste and a green bin in which to empty the pail. The green bin is comparable to city trash and recycling receptacles that are collected weekly.

“We know this means some new tasks that people might not be used to, but ultimately, some of what goes into the black [trash] bin now just goes in a new container,” Deleon said.

Deleon said the city gets a lot of questions about when residents who don’t yet have the containers are going to get them.

“This month, we are going to finish delivering containers in La Jolla,” she said. “Starting in July, we move into what we call Tuesday customers. So anyone that gets their trash picked up on Tuesdays will receive a green bin and kitchen pail. … We’re looking to fully roll out this program by August.”

The green bins are collected every week even if they’re not full, she said. Previously, green yard-waste-only containers were collected every two weeks.

A city of San Diego graphic shows what can and cannot go in the green bins being delivered to La Jolla homes.
(City of San Diego)

Some people have put the kitchen pail on the curb, thinking it is the container that gets picked up for disposal.

“Although the majority of citizens are using the pails and bins correctly, we want to remind customers that the kitchen pail contents go into the green bin and the green bins go to the curb,” she said.

“We know this means some new tasks that people might not be used to, but ultimately, some of what goes into the black [trash] bin now just goes in a new container.”

— Andrea Deleon, San Diego interim collections services program manager

Deleon offered the following tips on how to best use the containers:

Keep them clean

To help keep the kitchen pails clean, Deleon suggests lining the bottom with paper towels or a paper bag.

“Plastic bags may be convenient, but in San Diego, we cannot let plastic bags go into the green bin, including bags that are compostable,” she said. “But paper that touches food is acceptable. It acts as an absorber of what comes off the food.”

To keep the green bins clean, Deleon recommends putting newspaper or any yard waste at the bottom to help prevent sticky messes.

Should food stick to the bottom of the green bin, rinse the bin with a yard hose, Deleon said. Then empty the water into a yard or space that doesn’t lead to a storm drain, she said.

Make them animal-proof

With La Jolla experiencing an increase in coyote sightings, Deleon urged keeping the green bin lid closed at all times, since coyotes and other animals explore urban areas in search of food scraps.

“Whether it is coyotes or birds or other creatures, they are looking for access in any bin, so we always advise that the lid be closed,” she said. “If they are able to get in, you can put something heavy on top until you put it out on the curb.”

Reduce smells

If space is available in the freezer or refrigerator, store the kitchen pail there to keep the organic waste cold and reduce odors, Deleon said.

“It slows the decomposition so it lasts longer until you have to empty it and helps keep things solid and make it less icky,” she said.

Sprinkling baking soda in the kitchen pail also can control bad smells.

Another tip to mitigate odors is to keep the green bin cool and in the shade if possible, Deleon said.

Pick your emptying preference

How often users empty the kitchen pail into the green bin is “all about preference,” Deleon said. “If your pail is really full, empty it into the green bin. If you want to use the freezer/fridge technique, some folks keep that cold until the last minute.

“You can also empty the kitchen pail every day. It’s about where you have space. If you don’t have a lot of space, place the kitchen pail contents into the green bin as soon as you’d like.”

Further questions

For more information or to learn more about the process and where organic waste goes, the city will present webinars from 6 to 7 p.m. Wednesdays, July 5 and 19. To register, go to ◆