A pedestrian-attacking bird isn't the only “aggressive” news item making headlines in San Francisco. According to the New York Times, lawmakers in the City by the Bay have voted to make already ironclad recycling laws even more stringent. New ordinances will require that  San Francisco residents use three separate curbside garbage bins: one for trash, one for recyclables, and one for compostable waste.

Here's the thing that's ruffling some proverbial feathers: If, for example, you inadvertently toss a bunch of overripe bananas in the trash instead of the compost bin, your watchful garbage collector may leave you a gentle reminder to get your bins straight. Instead of a gentle reminder, repeat offenders may receive fines ranging from $100 to $1,000 (the fines don’t kick in until 2011).

Officials hope that mandatory 3-Cart Recycling System will help the city reach its goal to send zero waste to landfills by 2020, noting that composting is “the new” mixed recycling. San Francisco’s existing composting efforts divert about 400 tons of food scraps a day from landfills; a majority of this waste is sent north to the grape-happy soil of Napa and Sonoma Counties.

Reactions are, as mentioned, predictably mixed with some residents feeling that there should be a separation of garbage and government.

Nathan Ballard, a spokesman for San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, states that a “vigilant garbage cop” scenario is strictly hyperbole:

“We are not going to throw you in the clink for putting your coffee grounds in the wrong bin. Fines will only be imposed in egregious cases.”
I’m glad to see more and more cities offering a compost option in addition to recyclables and straight-up trash. But making it mandatory and slapping violators with steep fees? Call me skeptical, but this gives me pause. In an ideal world, this would go over without a hitch but mandatory recycling still (sadly) has quite a way to go in many parts of the country. Adding composting to the mix? I’m going to say it’s premature. Promote it, encourage it, offer it, work it, work it, work it … but require it by law? I just don’t know.

Regardless, kudos to San Francisco for paving the way. I’m curious to see how quickly (or if at all) the trash tendencies of the city’s non-composting citizens evolve.

What do you think? Is a required third bin for food scraps something you’d like to see in your neck of the woods?

Via [NY Times]

Photo: probable koz

Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

San Fran gets tough(er) on trash
Lawmakers in San Francisco make existing recycling laws even stricter. Should compost-shy residents start to fear garbage cops?