By MALIA WOLLAN
Published: June 10, 2009
BERKELEY, Calif. — San Francisco, which already boasts one of the most aggressive recycling programs in the country, has raised the ante, vowing to levy fines of up to $1,000 on those unwilling to separate their Kung Pao chicken leftovers from their newspapers.
The Board of Supervisors passed new recycling and mandatory composting rules on Tuesday in a 9-to-2 vote. The city already diverts 72 percent of the 2.1 million tons of waste its residents produce each year away from landfills and into recycling and composting programs. The new ordinance will help the city toward its goal of sending zero waste to landfills by 2020, said Jared Blumenfeld, director of the city’s Department of the Environment.
Under the new ordinance, residents will be issued three mandatory garbage bins: a black one for trash, a blue one for recyclables and a green one for compost.
Garbage collectors who spot orange peels or aluminum soda cans in a black trash bin will leave a note reminding the owner how to separate his trash properly. Anyone found repeatedly flouting recycling protocol will be issued fines of $100 for small businesses and single-family homes and up to $1,000 for large businesses and multiunit buildings. The city has put a moratorium on all fines until 2011 while residents learn the ropes.
Reaction to the new rules was as mixed as, well, recyclables.
“This takes Big Brother to an extreme I’m not comfortable with,” said Sean R. Elsbernd, one of two supervisors who voted against the ordinance. “I don’t want the government going through my garbage cans.”
Garbage cops snooping through the curbside refuse is not the intent of the ordinance, said Nathan Ballard, spokesman for Mayor Gavin Newsom.
“We are not going to throw you in the clink for putting your coffee grounds in the wrong bin,” Mr. Ballard said. “Fines will only be imposed in egregious cases.”
Mr. Newsom, who proposed the legislation last May and doggedly championed it, is expected to sign it into law within 30 days.
The city’s most notorious recycling laggards tend to be owners of apartment buildings, Mr. Blumenfeld said. “We’re mainly focusing this new law at multitenant buildings; only 25 percent of those building owners provide recycling for renters.”
But it is the mandatory composting that has city officials most excited.
“When the nation is looking at complex solutions for climate-change reduction,” Mr. Blumenfeld said, “we should not overlook the importance of simple things like increasing the recycling rate and composting.”
The city already composts 400 tons of food scraps a day, 90 percent of which goes to enriching the soil of vineyards in Napa and Sonoma Counties.
“People will embrace composting just like they embraced recycling,” said Mr. Ballard, who himself began composting kitchen scraps six months ago. “Here in San Francisco people are crazy about recycling. Composting is the next frontier.”
Zero Waste by 2020 is an admirable, and very doable, goal! They are also introducing a three-bin system where Blue is recycle, Green is compost, and Black is garbage.
Jean Drapeau used to like to compare Montreal and San Francisco as being the two truly great beautiful cities of North America. But in the year 2009 we are so far behind San Francisco that any comparison today would be embarrassing.