Skip to main content Skip to site navigation

City of Chula Vista – Commercial Recycling Program to Address Climate Change

Case Story

Community:Chula Vista (San Diego County)

Population: 230,000


Since 1990, Chula Vista has required that all waste generators recycle, including all commercial and industrial businesses. A tiered rate structure provides a financial incentive to businesses to recycle and the city emphasizes education and assistance to encourage compliance.

Program Highlights

  • Tiered rate structure encourages compliance.
  • All businesses, regardless of size, must recycle.
  • City emphasizes education and technical assistance to encourage businesses to recycle.
  • City’s exclusive franchise hauler assists with education and compliance as part of its franchise agreement with the city.

Lessons Learned

  • Merely having an ordinance mandating commercial recycling will not be effective unless it is complemented by a robust education and technical assistance program for businesses.
  • Offer businesses a clear path to compliance, with achievable targets, face to face support, and you will see behavior change.
  • Include working with generators to encourage recycling part of the franchise agreement or permit condition for waste and recycling service providers.

Resources to Learn More

The Rest of the Story…

Landfill Fees Stimulates Mandatory Recycling Requirement

Chula Vista adopted mandatory recycling by all residents in 1990 as a way of saving ratepayers money. The county, which owned the landfill at the time, adopted a tipping fee structure that charged higher disposal fees to waste from jurisdictions that did not adopt mandatory recycling. The mandatory recycling requirement applies to everyone in Chula Vista, with no exemptions. The city also recognized that mandatory recycling would assist it in meeting the AB 939 goals, just recently adopted by the State. In 1997, when the county sold the landfill to a private company, Chula Vista retained the mandatory recycling requirement.

Education is the Key to Enforcement and Compliance

The city places heavy emphasis and staff resources on educating businesses and providing technical assistance, including audits, to promote compliance. While notices of violation may be issued, the city relies on education and personal assistance, and not penalties for businesses needing prompting to comply. City staff consider themselves advocates for businesses by assisting them and explaining how they will save money by recycling more and disposing less.

The city’s exclusive franchise hauler also assists in promoting compliance by working with new businesses to explain the recycling requirements, options for compliance, and the financial benefits of recycling (i.e., lower rates compared to trash disposal). The hauler’s staff also may alert city staff to businesses that refuse to recycle and could benefit from education or assistance.

Although virtually all commercial and industrial accounts in Chula Vista have recycling bins or carts, achieving a 100 percent compliance rate is difficult.


Chula Vista’s exclusive franchised hauler must provide monthly reports on waste and recyclable tonnages collected. Businesses that utilize a third party recycler to whom they give or sell recyclables must provide annual reports to the city.

Compiled May 2009

This case story was prepared in partnership with the California Integrated Waste Management Board.


Log in