San Francisco And Its ‘Zero-Waste’ Program

Toppled waste bins on 17th Street near Temple Street in San Francisco.In 2009, San Francisco became the first city in the country to require that residents and businesses alike separate from their trash compostable items, like food scraps, and recyclable goods, like paper, metals, and plastic, into separate bins.

Robert Haley, the city’s zero-waste manager, thinks the city can cut its landfill totals in half through education and incentives.The owners of single-family homes pay more than 12 times as much each month for a 32-gallon trash bin as they do for recycling and composting bins. And they can save more than $9 per month by switching from a 32-gallon trash bin to a 20-gallon bin. “We don’t need a lot of programs and policies here,” he said. “We need a lot better participation.”

The goal is to have zero waste going to landfills or incinerators by 2020.

“I think it’s extremely ambitious,” Haley said of the goal. “It would be hard for me with a straight face to say, ‘In six years, nothing is going to go to the landfill.’ But we want to get as close as we can to that.”

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