How do we put out so much waste in San Francisco, about 650 tons per day compared to just 600 tons of recycled and composted material combined? Simply by throwing away compostable and recyclable material, of course, stuffing our black bins about halfway with items that should logically have been placed in the green or blue ones.
That's according to Guillermo Rodriguez, Department of the Environment spokesperson, and comes from an article in the Chronicle checking in on a lofty goal set in 2003 for the city to do away with waste altogether, producing nothing by recycling and compost by 2020.
"We haven’t hit our targets," Rodriguez confesses, adding that the zero waste plan was a "big, audacious goal” and that to get anywhere near it "we need our businesses and residents to do a much better job.”
Two years ago, Nate Silver and his FiveThirtyEight data wizards crunched the numbers regarding San Francisco's much-praised system of trash diversion. After 12 years of decline in the number of tons of waste sent to landfills, in 2013, the trend reversed, they found. That and more prompted the city's zero waste manager to confront the 2020 goal and say "we want to get as close as we can to that," implying that it would be nearly impossible to meet.
At Recology’s Transfer Station on Tunnel Avenue (or, to the layman, the dump), Rodriguez told the Chron, "This is the sad place — it should be empty... This is where we need residents to do a better job."
Can we put blame on new residents haven't learned the ropes about what to compost and what to recycle? Perhaps. (Please see this guide at WhatBin.com if that includes you.)
While SF is the only city in the country to compost more than it recycles — the practice was mandated in 2009 — for the city to truly be the environmental exemplar it's sometimes held up as, it's going to take a bit more work from all parties. Until then, the grass really might be greener, at least proverbially, among our urban rivals.