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San Francisco Closes the Lid on Garbage

In San Francisco, a city that prides itself on being green, residents soon may find themselves required by law to compost and recycle. The proposed law, called for by Mayor Gavin Newsom, is expected to be approved by the Board of Supervisors by the end of the year.
“We’ve already reached the people who know it’s the right thing to do,” says Thea Hillman with the San Francisco Department of the Environment. “Now we’re at the folks who need not so much the carrot but more of the stick.”
Mandatory recycling laws are already in place in several other cities, including Seattle, Philadelphia, and San Diego. San Francisco would be the first to introduce mandatory composting.
The proposed ordinance takes a multi-faceted approach to reducing waste. The most impact may come from a requirement that landlords provide adequate recycling and composting for their tenants.
Compostable and recyclable materials would also be banned from the city’s transfer station, enabling trash collectors to enforce the rule by simply not collecting garbage carts that contain “incorrect” materials. This method, which relies on a process of warning tags, has already been used successfully in Seattle and other cities.
In order to make recycling more accessible, the public would be allowed to dispose small amounts of recyclables and compostables at restaurants and café’s. Public event planners would need to include enough carts for revelers to toss their trash responsibly. Though the city has already achieved the nation’s highest recycling rates, diverting 70 percent of its trash from landfills, city officials say that the mandatory program is necessary to reach their target of 75 percent recycling by 2010.
By 2020, the city has vowed to achieve zero waste. Waste reduction efforts range from a Styrofoam ban in restaurants, to prohibiting disposable plastic bags in large supermarkets and pharmacies, to pursuing wider markets and technologies for recycling.