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KPBS reporter Joanne Faryon had a solid piece recently about why the city of San Diego could recycle more — but doesn’t because it would cost too much. It’s worth watching.

Faryon estimated the city would lose $17 million annually if all its construction and demolition debris were diverted from the Miramar Landfill.

The cash-strapped city benefits by keeping construction waste such as asphalt, drywall and lumber headed to the landfill. A waste hauler who dumps a ton of debris at the landfill is charged $43. All of that money goes to the city.

The city wants to keep it.

Taking that same ton of construction waste to a private recycling facility costs much more. The city tacks on two fees that push the cost to $65. The city has considered opening a construction and demolition facility at the Miramar Landfill, but the office of Mayor Jerry Sanders said earlier this week it is unnecessary — even though nearly a third of the waste being dumped at the landfill is recyclable construction debris.

Elmer Heap, the city’s Environmental Services Department director, defended the city’s practice, which is pushing the Miramar Landfill closer to its capacity. The landfill is projected to reach capacity in 2012.

Heap told KPBS:

When you divert material it’s a beautiful thing because you’re recycling, you’re doing the right thing, but at the same token, you’re impacting financially a system we have in place. A system that was created many years ago. … Everyone just needs to appreciate the impact that has on the general fund.

ROB DAVIS

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