Compost King: San Francisco

EC file photo

EC file photo

According to Mother Nature Network, the city of San Francisco has taken a novel approach to a long known fact of human beings: we generate waste.  On October 21st the city of San Francisco made composting mandatory for all citizens.  Although fines won’t be enforced until early 2010, the new law is an effort to push the city closer to its goal of producing zero-waste by 2020.  Cities are the biggest offenders in generating waste.  In San Francisco the solution to this problem has turned out to be quite dramatic.  The city will no longer sweep the issue aside, but, instead, will send most of their compostable waste to a facility in Vacaville, CA, where gardeners, farmers, and vintners can buy the end product for their crops.  San Francisco has made it easy for citizens to comply with the new ordinance by distributing three different bins to each household: blue for recycling, green for compost, and black for trash.

This new composting push is a simple idea that fosters sustainable behavior. San Francisco already boasts a 72 percent recycling rate.  SolveClimate.com reported on a recent study showed that 36 percent of the city’s landfill garbage is food waste, while 31 percent is paper. Food waste is a major concern that needs to be dealt with. Rather than simply informing the public and hoping they make the right decision, the city took a direct approach because the deadline for their zero-waste commitment is fast approaching. Residents can no longer feign ignorance about the problems waste creates.

The new ordinance is anticipated to dramatically increase recycling within a city that already boasts the highest recycling rate in the nation. Some estimates figure that as much as 90 percent of all waste generated within city limits will avoid the landfill.  Hopefully citizens who have not composted, or recycled in the past, will do so now. Thus, we find the idealized concept of a zero-waste community becoming a reality. It’s a new chapter of sustainability in the United States and hopefully one that will catch on in other metropolitan areas.

– Caryna Pourier

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