Fri, Jun 12, 2009 - Page 7 News List

San Francisco to toughen recycling


San Francisco, which already boasts one of the most aggressive recycling programs in the country, has upped the ante — vowing to levy fines of up to US$1,000 on those unwilling to separate their Kung Pao chicken leftovers from their newspapers.

The Board of Supervisors passed new recycling and mandatory composting rules on Tuesday in a 9-2 vote. The city already diverts 72 percent of the 2.1 million tonens of waste its residents produce each year away from landfills and into recycling and composting programs. The new law will help the city toward its goal of sending zero waste to landfills by 2020, said Jared Blumenfeld, director of the city’s Department of the Environment.

Under the new law, all city residents will be issued three mandatory garbage bins: a black one for trash, a blue one for recyclables and a green one for compost.

Garbage collectors who spot orange peels or aluminum soda cans lurking in a black trash bin will leave a note reminding citizens how to separate their trash properly. Anyone found repeatedly flouting recycling protocol will be issued fines of US$100 for small businesses and single-family homes, and up to $1,000 for large businesses and multi-unit buildings. The city has put a moratorium on all fines until 2011 while residents learn the ropes.

The reaction to the new rules were as mixed as, well, recyclables.

“This takes big brother to an extreme I’m not comfortable with,” said Sean Elsbernd, one of two supervisors who voted against the proposal. “I don’t want the government going through my garbage cans.”

Garbage cops snooping through the curbside refuse is not the intent of the new law, said Nathan Ballard, spokesman for Mayor Gavin Newsom.

“We are not going to throw you in the clink for putting your coffee grounds in the wrong bin,” Ballard said. “Fines will only be imposed in egregious cases.”

Newsom, who proposed the legislation last month and doggedly championed it, is expected to sign it into law within 30 days.

The city’s most notorious recycling laggards tend to be owners of apartment buildings, Blumenfeld said.

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