Friday, July 03, 2009

SAN FRANCISCO REQUIRES THAT EVERYONE COMPOST

Sacramento Bee - San Francisco, renowned for its civic will to save the planet, is now ordering residents and businesses to compost food scraps and biodegradables, or risk fines for not properly sorting their garbage.

That's welcome news for Jepson Prairie Organics, a Dixon-based composting firm that already accepts delivery of 400 tons a day in plate scrapings, greasy cardboard and other sweet-stinking waste from San Francisco eateries and homes.. . .

For some 200 Northern California vineyards that use it, there is something about San Francisco compost and its unique, urban blend of crab shells from Fisherman's Wharf, pasta from North Beach, pupusas from the Mission District and dim sum from Chinatown that nourishes the soil like little else.

Yet the question for San Francisco is whether the new city composting law signed by Mayor Gavin Newsom last month will nourish the city's ecological soul or merely irritate the populace.

The new law gives the city authority to fine residents and small businesses $100 ­ and impose penalties up to $1,000 on big firms and apartment owners ­ if they refuse to segregate leftover fish bones, watermelon rinds and watercress salad into compost bins.

Even in liberal San Francisco, which boasts of recycling 72 percent of its 2.1 million tons of waste a year, a few residents wonder if the law is a case of big compost meets Big Brother. . .

The city, which has had a composting program since the mid-1990s, has achieved voluntary participation from 50 percent of restaurants, 40 percent of single-family homes and 20 percent of apartments.

But the new law, designed to boost those rates by using the threat of citations, is drawing national media attention. . .

"All of a sudden, the headlines were 'Garbage Police: They're coming,' " Newsom mused in a signing ceremony for the law passed on a 9-2 vote by the Board of Supervisors. . .