Buena Vista
Landfill Project

Meeting the needs of local residents and businesses


The Buena Vista Recycling and Solid Waste Facility is the backbone of Santa Cruz County's waste diversion and disposal system, processing 450 tons of refuse on a daily basis.

With the landfill nearing capacity in the upcoming years, the facility is undergoing renewal to meet the next generation of County residents' and businesses' waste disposal needs. Funded through a Recycling and Solid Waste Services Infrastructure charge added to property tax bills, the project will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increase waste diversion through a new organics processing facility that helps support local farmers, and meets state environmental protection mandates. Once completed, Buena Vista will serve a dual role – as a transfer station for commercial haulers and residents, and as an organics processing facility that diverts yard waste, food scraps and other methane-producing compostables from the waste stream.

The Buena Vista Project will help ensure that the County can meet the needs of local residents and businesses, now and into the future. In doing so, we will assure Santa Cruz County maintains its leadership when it comes to waste reduction and recycling.

Project Documents
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Environmental Documents
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Recycling & Trash
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Track Progress
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Frequently Asked Questions

The County will build and operate three necessary infrastructure projects:

  • A compost facility to comply with state law to reduce greenhouse gasses by removing green waste and food scraps from landfills
  • A commercial waste transfer station to collect trash from commercial haulers
  • A residential waste transfer station to collect trash from county residents

The Buena Vista Landfill is the County's only remaining landfill and will reach capacity in the near future. The new waste transfer stations will replace the landfill as a county trash collection/recycling location and must be complete before the Buena Vista Landfill closes in 2030. Without a new transfer facility, local refuse collection trucks will be forced to make daily trips out of the county, increasing local greenhouse gas emissions by 2,000 lbs. per day.

By extending Santa Cruz County's leadership when it comes to waste stream diversion, this project will benefit residents in several ways. It allows us to meet state mandates to reduce organics in the waste stream by 75 percent, reduces greenhouse gas emissions by consolidating local refuse before being transferred out of county, and prevents illegal dumping by preserving local options for self-haulers to dispose of excess household refuse.

If this project is completed, yes. The new Buena Vista transfer facility would operate much like one in place in Ben Lomond. Otherwise, residents would need to travel to Ben Lomond or to a regional disposal facility in Marina.

The composing facility would collect food and yard waste for processing. Eventually, food waste would be converted into fertilizer for local agricultural uses.

The County previously established a citizen-led task force to explore new waste disposal facilities. That effort was met with significant public opposition, leading the task force to drop the idea in 2004. Absent an alternative site, the County’s only option is to use existing land at Buena Vista as a transfer station and organic composting facility.

Two transfer stations and the compost facility are projected to cost $55 million to design, permit, and construct. Current engineer’s estimates are based on locating all three projects at the Buena Vista Landfill site. These charges have been verified by an outside audit and are based on a standard 30-year bond, and are subject to renewal every five years by the Board of Supervisors.

Only parcel owners in the unincorporated County will pay the new charge. Residents from outside of the unincorporated County will pay a surcharge to use our facilities, currently set at 28% over the use fees paid by residents in the unincorporated County.

The engineers cost estimate was based on a standard 30-year bond. We won’t know the exact terms and amount of the bond until we apply, but current estimates for the two transfer stations and the compost facility at the Buena Vista Landfill site are $55 million inclusive of design and permitting costs. Also, by beginning the charge now, we will place most of the fees collected into a reserve (other than the amounts paid towards design and permitting costs) which will be used as a bond down payment. This down payment will reduce our overall bond and annual payment, which should keep costs down and limit future increases to the proposed annual charge.

Initially, these costs will be less than $10 per parcel, per month. See Cost of Service study here, Solid Waste System Cost of Service Study Report.

We will have to go back to the Board every 5 years to adjust the amounts for what is actually needed. The bond will be a 30-year bond; the closure costs will drop off in about 6-8 years. Landfill maintenance and post-closure costs will continue.

Environmental permitting is underway. Construction is anticipated to begin in 2025 and be complete in 2026.

The transfer stations must be complete and in use before the landfill closes so waste haulers will have a local disposal site for recyclables, organics and waste materials.

No, Proposition 218 applies to this proposed infrastructure charge. When the voters passed Proposition 218 in 1996 it changed the California Constitution by requiring government service fees to be proportional to the cost of providing the property related service. All property owners, including government property owners, subject to the fee must pay their fair share of these costs. Proposition 218 makes it unconstitutional for the government to adjust fees for any reason other than a change in the cost to provide services.

Proposition 218 only allows for a charge to be in place for up to 5 years at a time before a new Proposition 218 notice and updated engineer’s report must be submitted to the public. In this way, the County is required to adjust funding levels and ensure the fee for service remains proportional to the cost of service.