Or Else

San Francisco mulls mandatory recycling.

Later This Summer, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom is expected to send a proposal to the city's Board of Supervisors that would make the city's voluntary residential and commercial recycling program mandatory. San Francisco officials say the proposal still is in its developmental stages, meaning the city is working with various stakeholders, such as housing and business associations, to receive feedback, and is not expected to be finalized until later this summer.

The city's diversion rate currently stands at 70 percent, and it is trying to meet its goal of a 75 percent rate by 2010. “We believe we've done as much as we possibly can based on our existing rules and regulations and incentives,” says Joe Arellano, deputy communications director for the mayor's office. “A good amount of people won't see any difference if we institute mandatory recycling in San Francisco, because they're already doing it.” Arellano says that most residents already throw most of their waste into recycling bins rather than the trash because of uncertainty over whether or not an item can be recycled. “The game changer will be convincing people to compost their food scraps on a regular basis,” he says.

Mark Westland, communications manager for the San Francisco Department of the Environment, says the easiest way to convince people to compost their waste is to make it mandatory. One way to enforce such an ordinance, he adds, would be to discontinue collection services for residents who do not comply. “When the garbage stays, the impact is rather profound and people change their behavior,” Mayor Newsom says.

Westland says the city is constantly doing outreach to increase participation, including television ads and phone banking.