I recently learned that San Francisco has a mandatory compost recycling law for all households, commercial properties and food vendors. The law went into effect last October and stipulates that everyone in San Francisco must separate their refuse into recyclables, compostables, and trash and that all property owners are required to maintain and pay for adequate refuse service.
What kind of enforcement is there? Well, the basics of it are they will issue warnings at first if the property is non-compliant. The next step would be to refuse to empty a cart until the problem is resolved. The worst case would be that the city may consider liens, fines, and other fees. Fines can go up to $1,000, but may not exceed $100 for small generators. The city will not create liens without a hearing or issue fines without warnings.
Sounds pretty reasonable to me and not that much different than what we have going in Seattle (minus the mandatory and fines part). We've been doing the food waste composting for a few years now and last year they expanded the service to include meat, fish and dairy. So, between food waste recycling and regular recycling, very little gets thrown out at our house anymore.
In fact, I'm so used to food waste recycling (which I also have at work), it pains me to throw food out. When we were visiting family in San Diego over Christmas, where they don't have food waste recycling offered by the city, it pained me to throw food waste out in the garbage. Like physically made me uncomfortable. If I didn't already have too much crap in our luggage I would have taken it back with me if it were feasible. But, I'm not that crazy so we didn't.
I have the same problem when we go to cafes that don't offer composting bins, although we tend to stick with ones that do. At restaurants, I can't tell if food waste going back to the kitchen is getting composted or not. But, you'll be interested to hear that when we went out for breakfast on Saturday (which is a huge rarity) I packed containers and took my leftovers home with me. In fact, there was so much food served with my breakfast, I spent the rest of the day eating from it. No wonder we have a weight problem in this country. But, that's another story altogether.
Why are municipalities requiring or offering food waste recycling? Because it saves them money by diverting food from the waste stream, particularly since there is a viable, sellable product being produced out of it at the end. The other benefits are reducing waste going to the landfill which helps in conserving water energy and natural resources. As such, they work in partnerships with composting companies and get some financial benefit for doing so. For example, in Seattle yard waste collection and composting fees per ton cost one-half of waste disposal service fees.
So, with that in mind, do you think that all states should have a mandatory composting law? Assume that it is feasible for the cities to implement.
Should composting be mandatory nationwide?
Feel free to leave your thoughts on the matter in the comments.