Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Going green in San Francisco

A recent article in the Austin American-Statesman described the recycling and composting program in the green vanguard of San Francisco.
A couple of days ago, I ran into one of my neighbors, who lives part of the year in that fair city, and I asked her if she liked the recycing process there, and how it worked for her as a resident.
She wrote back with a great description of the program from her perspective, and, by permission, I post it here:

I am glad you asked me about composting in San Francisco. I love it! The City has made it very easy for apartment dwellers to compost, and I'd love to tell you about it.
As you may know, San Francisco is truly a leader among cities when it comes to waste disposal reduction. We have recycled for years and now are composting. In fact, I just read in the paper recently that the City will be hiring some trash cops to go around and make sure that people are truly recycling and composting. In San Francisco, recycling and composting are mandatory, not optional.
I live in a large, downtown apartment building. Earlier this spring, the City started a campaign to distribute recycling equipment (not much is needed, just a bucket and some "green" garbage bags, i.e., bags that are made out of something biodegradable, like corn).
I was home one day and answered a knock on my apartment door. I opened it to find a young woman with curly hair and jeans who looked like she'd just gotten home from a Peace Corps stint abroad. She explained to me that the City was commencing its recycling program and that my building was now a part of it. She handed me a small green bucket, one even more diminutive than my kitchen trash. In fact, my recycling bucket may only be one gallon. It is made out of a green mesh plastic. The City also provided a starter supply of recycling bags. (Weeks later, after I ran out, I was able to get new ones at my nearby Whole Foods Market. I understand that they are available in lots of places, including Walgreens.)
San Francisco is composting just about anything edible. Because the City also requires all restaurants to use biodegradable takeout containers, we are also composting coffee cups and napkins and plates and spoons. If one does not eat that leftover Chinese food, into the compost it goes, container and all!
Now that I am both recycling (including all paper and all rigid plastic) and composting in my apartment, my trash is reduced to nearly nothing. As soon as I buy some of those cloth produce sacks, I will hardly be throwing anything away. Sadly, plastic produce bags are my trash downfall....
My apartment building has a trash chute on every floor down which we launch our garbage bags to the basement. But, in order to recycle and compost, I have to go down the rickety back stairs of my 1920s Art Deco building, into the basement, where I deposit my paper bag full of recyclables and my bio bag full of food and soiled food containers into their respective blue and green bins.
It's not the highlight of my day but it seems like such little effort for a large return. And I am delighted to see that people in my building are recycling and composting in droves. I hope that someday I'll be able to buy a condo in a more modern building. I understand that the City is now requiring new residential construction to build in three chutes, one each for trash, recycling, and composting

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