Earth Eats: Real Food, Green Living

City of San Francisco Implements Mandatory Composting Program

Last month the city of San Francisco implemented the nation's first mandatory composting program, helping to close the loop locally in the bay area.

three receptacles: trash, recyclables, and compostables

Photo: frankfarm (flickr)

Trash, recyclables and compostables bins on the campus of UC San Francisco.

three receptacles: trash, recyclables, and compostables

Photo: frankfarm (flickr)

Last month the city of San Francisco implemented the nation’s first mandatory composting program.

The city’s Zero Waste initiative requires the recycling of not only paper and bottles and cans, but now, also food waste.

Residents and businesses are provided with green compost carts to dispose of food scraps, yard clippings and soiled paper items like greasy pizza boxes and used paper plates.

Build It And They Will Come

Mark Westlund, spokesperson for the City of San Francisco’s Environment Department, said that the response to the initiative has been very heartening. “It’s sort of a build-it-and-they-will-come sort of thing,” Westlund says, “We made the composting mandatory and now people are going out of their way to comply with the ordinance.”

Westlund said that people were so eager to participate before they had to, that the city couldn’t keep up with the green cart distribution. According to Westlund, the project helps to close the loop locally in San Francisco.

The food scraps that come out of the kitchens in San Francisco are made into compost, and are sold to an organic farm that grows vegetables that are then sold back to San Francisco. “So we’re able to make a closed loop right here within the Bay Area,” Westlund says.

Westlund also has advice to offer other communities looking to start a similar composting program: “I think that all you have to do is just get the political will to do it. Because it’s not a huge technological investment. It’s a natural process that we’ve been taking advantage of as a species for thousands of years”

Learn More

For more information: San Francisco Green Composting Cart Program

Watch a public service announcement from the San Francisco Environment Department:

Megan Meyer

Megan Meyer was in the company of foodies for most of her formative years. She spent all of her teens working at her town's natural food co-op in South Dakota, and later when she moved to Minneapolis, worked as a produce maven for the nation's longest running collectively-managed food co-op. In 2006, she had the distinct pleasure (and pain) of participating the vendanges, or grape harvest, in the Beaujolais terroire of France, where she developed her compulsion to snip off grape clusters wherever they may hang. In the spring of 2008, Megan interned on NPR's Science Desk in Washington, D.C., where she aided in the coverage of science, health and food policy stories. She joined Indiana Public Media in June, 2009.

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