‘We Did It,’ Ron Roberts Declares

County Supervisor Thanks San Diegans Who Exchanged A Record 785 Gas Mowers For Rechargeable Models 

The region’s air became cleaner on Saturday, May 1, when a record 785 working gas lawn mowers were exchanged for powerful rechargeable models that normally retail for $399, plus tax. The mowers were available for a steeply discounted $99.99 at the 11th annual Lawnmower Trade-In Event. 

“What an impressive response,” said Supervisor Ron Roberts, who in 2000 was among the first to start mower trade-in programs in California. “This shows you San Diegans will really turn out for clean air… and a good deal on a mower.” 

Nearly 1,000 county residents made the trip to the County Administration Center at 1600 Pacific Highway to exchange their pollution-belching gasoline-powered mowers for a top rated Black & Decker CMM 1200, 24 volt, cordless rechargeable lawn mower. 

The first people in line arrived with their mowers at about 6 p.m. on Friday. More than 100 were waiting by 5 a.m. on Saturday. From that point, the line grew rapidly, snaking about the 16.62 acre site and winding around the circa 1938 historic building. Somewhere near 7:30 a.m., the 785th person took his place in line. To accommodate the overflow when the mowers ran out, Supervisor Roberts issued preferential certificates to 200 people. Those individuals will receive priority service at the next exchange. 

Shattering A Record

The previous exchange record of 600 was set in 2002. Contributing to the popularity of this year’s event was the record low $99.99 price, down $50.01 from the $150 of past events. “Our recession busting price was the lawn mower world’s equivalent of the cash-for-clunkers program,” Roberts joked. 

Black and Decker was the winning bidder for the lawn mower contract negotiated by the County of San Diego. This contract is for two years of mowers at 785 mowers per year. Along with realizing savings from the county purchasing in volume, the price paid by members of the public also was subsidized with dollars from air pollution fines and a grant from the California Air Resources Board. 

Home Depot was the county’s retail partner. Its employees were key to dispensing the mowers at the event. Overall event coordination responsibilities belonged to the Air Pollution Control District and its director, Bob Kard. 

Saturday’s exchange process was simple. 

As individuals arrived, they were provided with a place card that numerically showed their position. At about 8 a.m., mowers began being exchanged. When the customer reached the front of the line, he or she handed over the gas model and was presented a voucher for a rechargeable machine. 

Using a large barrel that sat atop a huge white sheet of plastic, Evergreen Environmental Services employees dumped each mower upside down to drain any remaining gas and oil before the mower was tossed into a giant bin on its journey to a crusher and eventual recycling. 

Voucher in hand, the consumers next walked over to a register and paid $99.99 -- cash or credit only -- for the new mower. They then walked back to their cars, drove up to where the mowers were stacked, handed over their receipts and had a new mower loaded into their cars. 

All participants provided a photo I.D. or a form of proof of residency within San Diego County if that I.D. lacked a local address. A gasoline-powered lawn mower in working condition with all necessary parts for operation was required as air is only cleaned by removing working models as opposed to broken machines. 

A History Of Clean Air Success 

During the past decade, nearly 5,250 polluting mowers have been exchanged in San Diego County, reducing smog-forming emissions by more than 15 tons per year. The average gasoline-powered lawn mower spews 40 times more pollution than a single, late model automobile. 

Supervisor Roberts is a member of the APCD and CARB. A decade ago San Diego’s lawn mower exchange was among the first in the state. It has since spawned similar exchanges in communities throughout California, all in the name of cleaner air. 

“People who use zero-emission electric mowers are helping to improve San Diego County’s air quality,” said Supervisor Roberts. “That makes it easier for everyone to breathe, especially our children, while protecting public health. I walked through the line Saturday thanking everyone in attendance. I’d like to now do that one more time: Thank you San Diego!”