Mayor Gavin Newsom announced yesterday that San Francisco has attained a US recycling record by keeping 72% of all recyclable material out of landfills — up from 70% the year before.
The city is closing in on its goal of 75 percent landfill diversion by 2010. The most significant gains came from the recycling of material from building sites – due in large part to its 2006 mandatory Construction and Demolition Debris Recovery Ordinance.
“By requiring builders to recycle debris from construction projects, we were able to divert tens of thousands of new tons of material away from the landfill,” said Mayor Gavin Newsom. “Clearly, mandatory recycling measures pay off; if we are going to reach a recycling rate of 75 percent in 2010 and zero waste by 2020, we need to make sure that residents and businesses are taking full advantage of our composting and recycling programs.”
The figures compiled by the City’s Department of the Environment (SF Environment) show that San Francisco generated 2,100,943 tons of waste material in 2007. Of this, only 617,833 tons went to landfill, the lowest disposal rate since 1977.
The increased recovery of construction and demolition debris is a positive trend. However, SF Environment data shows that over two-thirds of the landfill-bound material was recyclable, with nearly 40 percent consisting of mixed compostables (mostly food scraps and soiled paper), 15 percent recyclable paper, and 15 percent other mixed recyclables.
“If we captured everything going to landfill that could have been recycled or composted, we’d have a 90 percent recycling rate” observed SF Environment Director Jared Blumenfeld. “The Board of Supervisors will soon be considering an ordinance that will require residents and businesses to sign up and use the recycling and composting programs, which we need to make our goals.”
Mandatory recycling is an established best practice in the field of solid waste management, and many state and local governments have mandated recycling various materials, or conversely banned them from landfills. Major cities including Seattle, Pittsburgh, Honolulu and San Diego have successfully implemented mandatory recycling programs. Garbage collection has been mandatory in San Francisco since 1932.