San Francisco’s Mandatory Recycling Program Encompasses Multifamily

2 min read

By Erika Schnitzer, Associate EditorSan Francisco—San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom recently passed an ordinance that would require residential and commercial building owners to sign up for both recycling and composting services.“Cities have been struggling with recycling rates that have been pretty stagnant; they haven’t increased as much as recycling program managers would have liked,” notes […]

By Erika Schnitzer, Associate EditorSan Francisco—San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom recently passed an ordinance that would require residential and commercial building owners to sign up for both recycling and composting services.“Cities have been struggling with recycling rates that have been pretty stagnant; they haven’t increased as much as recycling program managers would have liked,” notes Kendall Christiansen, a recycling industry expert who helped to launch New York’s recycling program and who is principal of Brooklyn-based Gaia Strategies, a public affairs consultancy for environmental business. The challenge of recycling at multifamily buildings is “the anonymity of residents, which makes it hard for people to be held accountable for what they do or don’t do,” Christiansen tells MHN. Managers will be obligated to provide containers, signage and education to residents; if residents choose not to follow recycling rules, managers will not be penalized.While some other cities, including New York, have mandatory recycling programs, San Francisco is the first to require the collection of food scraps.The ordinance states that it will “require all persons located in San Francisco to separate recyclables, compostables and landfilled trash and participate in recycling and composting programs, provide enforcement mechanisms and penalties for violations, ensure that all properties subscribe to refuse collection service, and authorize a department of public heath inspection fee of $167/hour.”All buildings and properties, including multifamily, will include a greenbin system for compostables. In a typical apartment building, scraps from meal prep may average 30 percent of total waste.According to the San Francisco Department of the Environment, if all of the recyclable and compostable materials currently going to landfills were captured by the city’s programs, San Francisco’s recycling rate soars from 72 percent to 90 percent.While fines for those who fail to follow the ordinance have not yet been specified, there is a cap of $100 established for residences and businesses that generate less than one cubic yard of refuse per week. Fines higher than $100 may apply to managers of large apartment buildings who refuse to offer recycling and composting opportunities to residents when feasible.

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