San Francisco supervisors and environmental officials took to Chinatown Thursday to push the city’s mandatory recycling and composting law, visiting a restaurant that they say saved a bundle from complying.
San Francisco’s law went into effect last October and applies to both residents and businesses.
Though it allows for non-complying residents to be fined up to $100, and businesses up to $1,000, no fines have been issued yet, officials said.
Officials said they hope an educational outreach effort, through multilingual mailings and doorstep visits, will convince residents and business owners that financial savings can go along with environmental conservation.
“Being green in San Francisco does make economic sense,” Environment Department Director Melanie Nutter said at a news conference this morning at the Far East Cafi.
The event was also attended by Supervisor David Chiu, whose District 3 includes Chinatown, and District 4 Supervisor Carmen Chu, whose Sunset District has seen a nearly 30 percent increase in recycling and composting since the ordinance went into effect. The citywide average increase was 22 percent.
“It’s important not just for the environment, but for businesses it has actually been a tremendous cost savings,” Chiu said.
Far East Cafi owner Bill Lee said he has saved $18,000 a year by properly disposing of recyclable materials and composting food scraps.
Recology SF, the city’s recycling company, provides a discount to businesses based on the volume of materials being diverted to recycling and composting.
The company also offers free services about how the program works and how to set it up, as well as training in English, Chinese, Spanish and other languages.
“So starting up the recycling and composting program is not as hard as people think,” Recology’s Wendy Ng said.
Despite San Francisco’s success so far, Nutter acknowledged that some communities “have been more difficult to reach.”
A door-to-door campaign recently in the Bayview District resulted in a composting rate that has almost doubled, she said.
According to the Department of the Environment, the city currently diverts 77 percent of its trash away from landfills through recycling and composting, the highest rate in the nation. The city has a goal of 100 percent diversion by 2020.
Ari Burack, Bay City News