Tossing orange peels, coffee grounds and grease-stained pizza boxes in the trash is now against the law in San Francisco, and could lead to a fine.
The nation's most comprehensive mandatory composting and recycling law was put into effect last week. It requires all businesses, restaurants, and residences including apartment buildings to separate their garbage into three separate color-coded bins: blue for recycling, green for compost and black for trash. The purpose is to cut greenhouse gas emissions and send nothing to landfills or incinerators by 2020. Food scraps, plant clippings and other organic materials that go into landfills take up costly space and decompose to form methane, a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Seattle passed a law in 2003 requiring people to have a compost bin but, unlike San Francisco, it did not mandate that all food waste go in there.
Those who fail to properly sort their refuse will receive warnings which, if unheeded, will result in fines: $100 for individual residences and small businesses which generate less than a cubic yard of refuse per week, and $500 for larger businesses. I wonder who will be assigned the task of going through people's garbage to ensure that it is properly sorted. Maybe the
A June 2008 report by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, a group focused on environmentally sound community development, said a zero waste approach is one of the fastest, cheapest and most effective ways to protect the climate. Garbage trucks take food scraps to the Organics Annex which is already processing about half of the city's food waste, more than 500 tons per day. The compost is then sold to Bay Area farms and vineyards.
"We hear a lot about climate change, and what we can do and should do, and what's happening in Congress," said Jared Blumenfeld, City Environmental Officer. "But people want to know what they can, practically, do every single day, and composting your food scraps is probably the single most effective thing you can do as a citizen in the United States today."
We have duly been issued our very own little composting bin which is a bit like a house pet because it's small, hungry, and hangs around the kitchen, although I haven't named it yet. The mother ship sits outside, waiting for all her babies to come home.