recycling.jpg

Mayor Gavin Newsom’s mostly un-controversial recycling laws intended to bring the city towards its stated goal of recycling (rather than merely disposing of) 90 percent of its waste sailed into the final stages of reality on Tuesday, but not without opposition from SanFrancisco’s most suburban supervisor, who had Orwellian language handy for the occasion.

Elsbernd: Recycling legislation is “too Big Brother even for me.”The laws – which will make composting one’s organic refuse the law of the land, and, by 2011, will impose fines on disposal scofflaws who put recycling, waste or compost in the wrong bin – are “too much to take,” said Supervisor Sean Elsbernd, whose West of Twin Peaks district is comprised of mostly single-family homes (many with unseen-in-San Francisco luxuries like “driveways” and “backyards”).

That “garbage cops” could someday be paid to investigate his constituents’ bins, looking for soda cans stowed along with trash is “too Big Brother even for me,” said Elsbernd, who noted that trash scavengers’ activities could lead to fines for unsuspecting residents.

Elsbernd and Supervisor Carmen Chu, both mayoral allies, were the only two officials to oppose the laws, which breezed through with a 9-2 vote. Newsom’s office put out a release shortly thereafter which made no mention of his buddies’ complaints, but did mention that cities with recycling fines on their books, like Seattle, rarely impose them.

A few minor tweaks were made to the laws before they were given the Big Thumbs Up: food vendors, except food vendors that “issue food in disposable containers” largely for takeout purposes (we’re thinking taco trucks) must provide compost, recycling and trash bins for their customers; and business owners “and their contractors” must work with janitors to provide the necessary bins to separate out Diet Coke cans from TPS reports fand uneaten Lean Cuisines.

The ordinance is expected to be signed off on by the mayor after a successful second reading and final vote with the Board next week. It’ll be “operative” 90 days after that, but with fines for violators on hold until 2011.

Please make sure your comment adheres to our comment policy. If it doesn't, it may be deleted. Repeat violations may cause us to revoke your commenting privileges. No one wants that!
  • Jamie Whitaker

    This legislation sounds well-intentioned and stuff, but I’ve yet to have seen a recycling bin at a multi-unit residential building utilized properly. In other words, people toss their styrofoam packaging, old lamps, vacuum cleaners, you name it into the recycling bins … and when 100’s of people live in the building, who gets the ticket? Does this mean homeowner’s associations need to hire their own individual refuse/recycling/composting sorter people on premises? That’s fine with me if we can deduct the costs out of our property taxes, BUT …

    We’ll see how well this is enforced … and will it be enforced equally across neighborhoods. How do you spell LAWSUIT?

  • Jamie Whitaker

    This legislation sounds well-intentioned and stuff, but I’ve yet to have seen a recycling bin at a multi-unit residential building utilized properly. In other words, people toss their styrofoam packaging, old lamps, vacuum cleaners, you name it into the recycling bins … and when 100’s of people live in the building, who gets the ticket? Does this mean homeowner’s associations need to hire their own individual refuse/recycling/composting sorter people on premises? That’s fine with me if we can deduct the costs out of our property taxes, BUT …

    We’ll see how well this is enforced … and will it be enforced equally across neighborhoods. How do you spell LAWSUIT?

  • Matt Baume

    I cannot believe this is actually happening. The recycling will be disastrous enough — as Jamie points out, the city does an absolutely abysmal job of explaining what can and can’t go in the bins. But expecting people to understand composting? The stink of rotting food is going to be unbearable.

  • Matt Baume

    I cannot believe this is actually happening. The recycling will be disastrous enough — as Jamie points out, the city does an absolutely abysmal job of explaining what can and can’t go in the bins. But expecting people to understand composting? The stink of rotting food is going to be unbearable.

  • Larry-bob Roberts

    There’s an extremely simple rule of thumb for the green bin – if it was ever alive (and not plastic) it can go in there. Paper coffee cup – one was a tree. Its lid – plastic, embossed with recycling logo, goes in blue bin. If people can get through college, they can figure out how to sort their waste.

  • Larry-bob Roberts

    There’s an extremely simple rule of thumb for the green bin – if it was ever alive (and not plastic) it can go in there. Paper coffee cup – one was a tree. Its lid – plastic, embossed with recycling logo, goes in blue bin. If people can get through college, they can figure out how to sort their waste.

  • Wil

    I understand a compromise was reached on the issue of landlords having to pay for their tenants’ violations. Does anyone know what it was?

    The point of the fine is to have a mechanism for punishing people who don’t recycle. If the landlord has to pay the fine and can’t pass it on to the tenant, there’s certainly no punishment for the tenant and therefore no reason for the tenant to comply. You can bet that all leases signed from this day forward will include a clause about this, but I wonder the legality of trying to pass through what the tenant will call a “garbage expense,” especially in the vast majority of cases where the lease says the landlord pays the garbage costs otherwise.

  • Wil

    I understand a compromise was reached on the issue of landlords having to pay for their tenants’ violations. Does anyone know what it was?

    The point of the fine is to have a mechanism for punishing people who don’t recycle. If the landlord has to pay the fine and can’t pass it on to the tenant, there’s certainly no punishment for the tenant and therefore no reason for the tenant to comply. You can bet that all leases signed from this day forward will include a clause about this, but I wonder the legality of trying to pass through what the tenant will call a “garbage expense,” especially in the vast majority of cases where the lease says the landlord pays the garbage costs otherwise.

  • Wil

    Also, does anyone believe for a second that they’re really going to de-emphasize fines? That may be the intent now, but fast forward a few years when we’re in another budget crunch and the press starts printing headlines about all this “money we’re leaving on the table” that could be used to pay for valuable city programs.

  • Wil

    Also, does anyone believe for a second that they’re really going to de-emphasize fines? That may be the intent now, but fast forward a few years when we’re in another budget crunch and the press starts printing headlines about all this “money we’re leaving on the table” that could be used to pay for valuable city programs.