I just read that San Francisco, in another moment of environmental health leadership (brilliance, I would call it), just launched the most ambitious recycling program in the nation. For a city that already diverts 72 percent of its trash from landfills, San Francisco didn’t sit on its laurels. Mayor Gavin Newsom promoted the law that adds mandatory composting to the program and forwards the goal of achieving 75 percent diversion and zero waste by 2020.
My hat is off to Mr. Newsom and San Francisco for this forward thinking plan. It mirrors the approach in Europe, where municipal compost has been done for years. San Francisco is truly ahead of the curve on this, they are leading our nation into the new green frontier. Our throwaway life style is not sustainable, and it can’t continue forever. This is a monumental step in the right direction.
San Francisco residents will be given 3 containers, one for trash, one for compostables, and one for recyclables. These will be collected regularly, just as the recycling and garbage is. After the phase in period, in 2011, residents who frequently refuse to sort their waste can be fined. Also, this law includes businesses, an often untapped area for massive composting to divert food waste from landfills, particularly in restaurants.
Governor Gavin Newsom outlines the many environmental benefits of this new law (in a Huffington Post article about the law):
“When food scraps break down in an oxygen-starved landfill it creates large quantities of methane gas, a greenhouse gas 72 times more potent than carbon dioxide when measured over a 20 year period. It also creates acids that can leach toxins from the landfill.
Composting food scraps produces little to no methane because there is sufficient oxygen in the process. And using the resulting compost reduces greenhouse gases by returning carbon to the soil, increasing plant growth, and reducing emissions associated with chemical fertilizers, pesticides and irrigation. Recent studies show that farming one acre of land using conventional industrial methods releases 3,700 pounds of carbon into the atmosphere each year. Farmed sustainably, with compost and cover crops, that same acre will put 12,000 pounds of carbon back into the earth.”
Amazing. And the “black gold”, the rich compost created by the program, is readily utilized up by surrounding farms and vineyards in the Bay area. Talk about a closed loop. The food eaten in San Francisco ultimately will grow more food to feed Californians living in that area.
[This post was written by Katy Farber]