San Fran's Mandatory Composting a Hit With Residents

You may feel a bit beleaguered hearing so much about The City By the Bay and its green initiatives lately, but San Francisco never fails to deliver. Most recently, the city has enacted Universal Recycling and Composting Ordinance, requiring residents and businesses to start composting their food waste.

Continuing to increase the city’s already high recycling rate of 72 percent, the food refuse is turned into compost, which is then sold to Bay Area farms and vineyards. San Francisco is also hoping its new three-bin system (every residence and business will have a blue bin for recycling, green for compost and black for trash) will help the city reach its goal of zero-waste by 2020.

Photo: Flickr/RyanIsHungry

According to, composting and recycling can reduce necessary trash services, which will greatly reduce refuse bills. Photo: Flickr/RyanIsHungry

Jared Blumenfeld, the city’s environmental officer, says its commercial composting efforts are already processing about half of the city’s food waste, which is more than 500 tons per day, as many people have already been participating in the program.

“You can see a lot of lettuce, tomatoes, old apples, rotten cabbages,” Blumenfeld told NPR. “You get a kind of vivid picture here of what’s being thrown away.”

Blumenfeld also added that composting is the “single most effective” action that can be taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. right now.

There is a moratorium on potential fines (which could range from $100 to $1,000) until July 2011, as the city allows residents and businesses time to adjust to the new system.

“As we’ve always promised, we are not going to start off fining people,” Blumenfeld told “Really our focus is to make sure tenants have the tools they need to recycle.”

The Department of the Environment and collectors will also provide free consultation, container labels, signage, educational materials and other assistance to buildings looking to educate those who work and live in them, according to, where additional information on the city’s waste management programs can also be found.

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  1. I was so pleased to hear about composting becoming mandatory in SF. I live just over the bridge and our town STILL doesn’t even allow composting for apartment dwellers. I hope this will become mandatory all across the state!

  2. I think an education program should have preceded any mandatory composting law.

    You’ll get better compliance when people WANT to engage in a behavior versus forcing them and getting all sorts of non-compostables tossed in the bin.

    My neighbor hates this law and makes sure to dispose of all their cooking oil and shredded plastic film in their green bin. When the plastic’s reduced to a very,very small size, it’s hard to tell it apart from coffee grounds.

  3. Marion County is trying to ban a business in Ocala, Fl. Compost USA .
    Marion County is known as “horse country”, and to protect Silver Springs, Marion County Commissioners, mandated by the government, banned horse manure from being dumped into the springs, sinkholes, etc.
    Companies that sponsor green energy are taking over.
    Composting is being accused of smelling. Of course, it will have an earthly smell, but it is not an offensive smell, if you can even smell it.

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