San Francisco on Track to Become a Zero Waste City

It seems almost impossible for an entire city to become zero waste, but that’s exactly what San Francisco is aiming to do by 2020.  In the City by the Bay, you’d be hard pressed not to find green composting bins right alongside the standard garbage and recycling bins, even at the Giant’s Stadium! Not only is San Francisco leading the domestic urban composting charge with a city-wide composting program, whereby the city mandates composting in addition to recycling, but the city is making the process of being an ecoconsumer easier and easier.

To help facilitate the zero-waste effort, residents are given an in-house compost container, courtesy of the city, to increase and encourage regular composting.  Given so much of waste management comes down to every day consumer behavior, providing the necessary tools up-front is critical for programmatic success — and it shows: more than 5,000 restaurants and businesses, in addition to city residents, compost 600 tons of food scraps and other compostable materials each day and this number continues to rise. City compost is then used to produce and foster the organic food sold to these same restaurants and consumers.  The cycle is therefore continuous and is saving the city money by reducing the amount of food waste that goes to landfills.  In fact, today San Francisco recovers a remarkable 77% of the materials it discards, bringing the city closer to its goal of zero waste.

San Francisco has also instated a ban on styrofoam and plastic bags and provides easy access for toxic waste disposal and removal. Thus far, the plastic bags ban remains in effect predominantly at larger retailers, but the city expects to push this ban across a wider market.

The city’s Department of the Environment, in addition to Recology, are predominantly to thank for this progressive push. The city’s Mandatory Recycling and Composting Ordinance requires that residents separate out recyclables, compostables and trash, which is unique; most other U.S. cities remain focused on recycling as the sole “green” effort.  San Francisco, however, has decided to rise above of the environmental curve and is a successful example for other cities looking to incorporate such efforts.

Portions of this post were cross-posted from Energy 2.0.

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Photo Credit: Andre Engels


federico bortoletto

Vai San Francisco.

federico bortoletto

Vai San Francisco.

Sarah M.
Sarah M5 years ago


Sheri D.
Sheri D5 years ago

Good job, San Francisco!

Roger M.
Past Member 5 years ago

That would be truly impressive.

Hope other cities are paying attention to how they're going about it.

Angela N.
Angela N5 years ago


Arild Warud

Way to go San Fran.

Anna M.
Anna M5 years ago

I'm not a big city person myself, but bravo, SF!

Valentina R.
Valentina R5 years ago

Amazing! Go San Francisco!

Kelly Rogers5 years ago

When I move I will. Leave it to California to lead the way. I hope it covers all of Cal. then the nation.