It's Required

San Francisco, Maine pass mandatory recycling laws.

Stephen Ursery, Editor, Waste Age Magazine

July 1, 2009

3 Min Read
It's Required

San Francisco's 72 percent landfill diversion rate may be the envy of other local governments, but officials in the City by the Bay aren't satisfied. In late June, Mayor Gavin Newsom signed legislation requiring all residences and commercial buildings to participate in the city's recycling and composting programs.

The ordinance, which is slated to take effect in September, calls for residents and businesses to place their waste in one of three bins: one for trash, one for recyclables and one for compostable materials. Those placing waste in the wrong bin could be fined, but Newsom has told media outlets that San Francisco officials will only levy such penalties for repeat and flagrant violations.

“While several other cities require recycling service and participation, San Francisco is the first city to require the collection of food scraps and other compostables,” says a press release from Newsom's office.

“San Francisco has the best recycling and composting programs in the nation, and we've already attained an impressive, and first in the nation, 72 percent recycling rate because of them,” said Newsom in the press release. “I am pleased with the leadership the Board of Supervisors has demonstrated on this important legislation. By collaborating with all of our stakeholders, businesses, colleagues, and citizens, we can build on our success and continue to lead the nation in recycling.”

However, the new ordinance hasn't drawn a unanimous chorus of kudos. Sean Elsbernd, who was one of only two city councilmen to vote against the bill, told the Associated Press that the measure is “over the top.”

According to Newsom's office, a recent study by San Francisco's Department of the Environment found that 36 percent of the city's landfilled waste is compostable and 31 percent is recyclable. The department estimates that if all of that material were recovered instead, San Francisco's landfill diversion rate would increase to 90 percent.

The city has set the goals of a 75 percent diversion rate by 2010 and a 100 percent rate by 2020 (For more information on San Francisco's zero-waste plan, as well as those of other jurisdictions, see "Counting to Zero").

San Francisco isn't the only jurisdiction to make recycling news this summer. In June, Maine Governor John E. Baldacci signed Legislative Directive 973, which requires manufacturers of compact fluorescent bulbs to implement programs to recycle the products. The law, which says that manufacturers have to establish their recycling programs by 2011, is scheduled to go into effect on Sept. 12.

Also in June, Texas Gov. Rick Perry vetoed legislation that would have required television manufacturers to provide Texas residents with free recycling of the devices.

According to an article by the Green Right Now news service, “Perry acknowledged that the bill would make it easier for consumers to recycle old televisions but said ‘it does so at the expense of manufacturers, retailers and recyclers by imposing onerous new mandates, fees and regulations’ and would also ‘generate unfair results and stifle competition.’”

Perry's move apparently left many scratching their heads. “We were in complete shock given the wide statewide support for the bill. We even had secured the endorsement of the industry lobbying group [the Technology Association of American, formerly the American Electronics Association],” Jeff Jacoby of the Texas Campaign for the Environment (TCE) told Green Right Now.

About the Author(s)

Stephen Ursery

Editor, Waste Age Magazine, Waste360

Stephen Ursery is the editor of Waste Age magazine. During his time as editor, Waste Age has won more than 20 national and regional awards. He has worked for Penton Media since August 1999. Before joining Waste Age as the magazine's managing editor, he was an associate editor for American City & County and for National Real Estate Investor.

Prior to joining Penton, Stephen worked as a reporter for The Marietta Daily Journal and The Fulton County Daily Report, both of which are located in metro Atlanta.

Stephen earned a BA in History from Rhodes College in Memphis, Tenn.

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