Moving closer to zero waste in San Francisco
March 31, 2011
Thanks to one of the country’s toughest mandatory recycling and composting laws, the total refuse that San Francisco diverts to recycling and compost is nearing 80 percent, and the number is rising every year. Those following interesting recycling initiatives around North America have probably heard of San Francisco’s aggressive “zero waste by 2020” goal. To put some teeth into that goal, there is a detailed Mandatory Recycling and Composting Ordinance that requires city residents and businesses to separate their refuse into recyclables, compostables and trash. Requires. Not requests.
Inside the 25 page ordinance, passed in late 2009, the Board of Supervisors noted that “…organic or compostable waste that is buried in the aerobic conditions of landfills creates methane gas…21 times as potent as carbon….and 20% of San Francisco’s planed reductions in emissions come from diverting additional solid waste from landfills…”
The ordinance goes on to note that 36% of what residents send to landfills is compostable (mostly food scraps) and that 31% is recyclable (mostly paper). The ordinance addresses residential, commercial and government usage.
While mandating new procedures, the ordinance was accompanied by an innovative public education program designed to show the ease and convenience of composting and other best practices. Take a peek at this sample post called “Food scrap collection is easy: find the best method that works for you.” Or the cool 30 second TV ad that asked for your apple core! Simple concept: when the benefits and ease of recycling and composting are made clear — they happen! Kudos to San Francisco for taking a lead that other cities are now following and for trail blazing on policy and on education.