Recology’s S.F. food-scrap collecting to hit milestone

By Emily DeRuy – San Francisco Chronicle, November 22, 2011

San Francisco’s garbage company says it expects to collect the 1 millionth ton of food scraps today, a milestone meant to remind holiday cooks to sort out their potato peelings and turkey bones.

The compost that will be picked up today at Scoma’s Restaurant on Fisherman’s Wharf will be added to the piles of coffee grounds and banana peels collected around San Francisco, which in 2009 became the first U.S. city to require residents and businesses to sort their green waste.

The tons of food scraps collected each week are turned into rich soil that is sent to Northern California farms and vineyards.

Since composting became mandatory in the city, more than 90 cities worldwide have imposed similar laws, officials said.

And the program has also helped push the city’s diversion rate – or the amount of trash kept out of landfills due to recycling or composting – to the nation’s highest. Robert Reed, a spokesman for the Recology garbage company, said San Francisco keeps 78 percent of its refuse out of landfills.

“San Francisco has embraced urban composting,” Reed said. “Once people found out it was like recycling, and that it’s easy to do in this city, it took off.”

City residents are required to separate waste into three categories – trash, recycling and green waste. Recycling and composting are free, while the trash fee varies depending on the size of a household’s bin.

Officials from the city’s Department of the Environment point out that there are a number of ways uneaten food is put to use. For example, some unused food from restaurants and stores may be sent to charitable organizations or used as animal feed.

“But composting is really the biggest thing because we take such a wide range of materials, and San Francisco serves as a model not just for the rest of the country, but for the world,” said Jack Macy, the city’s commercial zero-waste coordinator.

Composting tips

Place a paper bag inside the kitchen pail provided for compost, or line it with newspaper to avoid a mess. Remember not to use plastic bags – they’re not compostable.

Sprinkle baking soda on the compost if it starts to smell.

Deter flies with citrus, lavender, eucalyptus or lemongrass oils by placing a few drops on a cloth and leaving it inside or on top of the pail.

Check to see if something is compostable before you throw it away. Take-out containers, pizza boxes, coffee cups and wine corks are all compostable.

If you generate almost no garbage, you may be able to utilize the 20-gallon cart service, which can save you $2 per month.

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