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convention center employees using an industrial sorter to recycle
San Diego Convention Center Adopts New Environmental Initiative

The San Diego Convention Center has been a sustainability leader in the convention industry for decades. This year we are celebrating our 30th anniversary, and after 30 years, we have continually made sustainability a priority. We are a LEED Gold facility, we recently received APEX/ASTM certification and we have earned dozens of environmental awards and recognitions. But, it's not enough. We need to do more.

Our goal is to divert 75 percent of waste generated from landfills by 2020. By 2035, we plan to raise that to 95 percent to align with the City of San Diego's Zero Waste Plan. These are ambitious goals, but how do we plan to achieve them?

One way we plan to do that is our recent investment in an industrial sorter (see below).

The convention center's new industrial sorter

An Industrial Sorter

This sorter will allow us to separate out materials into different streams and guarantee we are setting apart CRV (California redemption value) plastics and CRV aluminum. By specifically redeeming the CRV materials, we are adding increased revenue to offset some of our recycling costs.

"We are already a very capable recycler, especially when considering the immense amount of materials and resources that are required to put on conventions," said Director of Facility and Environmental Services Donald Bottger. "We are rolling out those materials in front of us in order to ensure more items are recycled and claw our way to a higher diversion rate."

In our current setup, these are our main sorting categories:

  • Paper
  • Metal/Aluminum
  • Mixed Plastics
  • CRV Plastics
  • CRV Aluminum

We have six additional containers nearby for smaller streams of other types of recyclable materials including cardboard, plastic wrap and composting.

We are still learning the full range of our options, and we have the ability to adjust based on the density of specific items at a given convention. For example, if we need to add an additional bin for a particular event, we could combine the mixed plastics and CRV plastics and then conduct a secondary sort afterwards to separate them.

Convention center employee tosses bottle into a bin on a crowded sorter conveyor belt

We also decided to do something completely new with this sorter. We invited staff members from every department within the Corporation to come down, suit up and sort. Support staff from event management to food and beverage and communications were able to volunteer and see what this recycling effort entails.

"Experiencing the amount of waste that is generated from hosting giant conventions helped people throughout our Corporation understand how imperative it is that sustainability be a priority," said Executive Director of Communications and Outreach Barbara Moreno. "This level of understanding can only be reached by actually getting your hands dirty."

If you're interested in seeing our sorter in action, President & CEO Rip Rippetoe recently volunteered to sort and we caught it on camera. To learn more about our Green Meetings Practices, download our Fact Sheet.


Karen Totaro, CVE
Chief Operating Officer, San Diego Convention Center Corporation

Alec Church's picture
Posted by Alec Church, on April 22, 2019

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