San Francisco Reports Highest Recycling Rate in Nation

The city of San Francisco managed to divert 72 percent of all recyclable material from the landfill, claiming the highest recycling rate of any city in the country, according to office of San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom. The percentage inches closer to the city’s goal of 75 percent landfill diversion by 2010 and zero waste by 2020.

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San Francisco's proposed legislation would make recycling mandatory for all residents. Photo:

Mayor Newsom’s 2006 Mandatory Construction and Demolition Debris Recovery Ordinance is credited as the major contributing factor to the high rate of recycling. The ordinance, adopted in July 2006, created a mandatory program for the recycling of mixed construction and demolition (C&D) debris.

“By requiring builders to recycle debris from construction projects, we were able to divert tens of thousands of new tons of material away from the landfill,” said Mayor Gavin Newsom.

National recycling rate data, collected as of June 2008 and reported by Waste & Recycling News, shows the largest cities in California far leading other populous cities in the nation.

Although other Californian cities didn’t fare as well as San Francisco, they still reported some healthy numbers in comparison to their counterparts in the East, with Boston reporting in at 16 percent, Washington D.C. at 21 percent and Detroit at a mere 10.5 percent.

Moving Toward Zero Waste

Earning the bragging rights of top recycling city is great and being embraced, but Mayor Newsom is looking for more. The Mayor recently proposed a “Mandatory Recycling and Composting Ordinance,” which would do just as it’s titled: require, by law, all San Francisco residents to separate recyclables, compostables and landfilled trash and participate in recycling and composting programs.

“Clearly, mandatory recycling measures pay off,” said Mayor Newsom. “If we’re going to reach a recycling rate of 75 percent in 2010 and zero waste in 2020, we need to make sure that residents and businesses are taking full advantage of our composting and recycling programs.”

The Board of Supervisors Land Use and Economic Development Committee is expected to meet about the legislation in the coming weeks.

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  1. Since the EPA says that only 75 percent of waste is actually recyclable, this is pretty impressive. But when you think about it, S.F. is still a big enough city that 28 percent of waste going to a landfill is a large number.

  2. It’s an impressive rate of recycling!!
    I wish all cities in the world could do the same!

  3. While single stream recycling is suppose to cure all the ills of the world….why are we still incinerating waste, shipping it overseas, land filling and etc….While collection is a great number to measure….what is the real number that is actually returned into products?

  4. While that is a great rate I would like to know the rate before the demolition debris is counted. Not all cities are tearing lots of buildings down. I would like just the composting/recycling numbers. I am an avid composter in PA and cannot believe how closeminded people are to composting!!!

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