JANUARY 2012

San Francisco reaches one million tons composted

San Francisco’s residents and businesses have reached a major milestone in their efforts to help protect the environment – one million tons of food scraps and plants collected for composting in San Francisco.

Environmentalists, city officials, and representatives of Recology, San Francisco’s recycling company gathered at Scoma’s Restaurant on Fisherman’s Wharf to highlight environmental benefits achieved through the program.

Each day, San Franciscans compost more than 600 tons of food scraps and plant cuttings, more than any other city in North America, through the curbside compost program provided by the San Francisco-based recycling company, Recology. Since its inception in 1996, the program has generated more than 600,000 cu. yds. of nutrient-rich compost.

This program alone has diverted one million tons of waste from landfill disposal. By reducing methane, a potent greenhouse gas produced in landfills, and by sequestering carbon in the topsoil of local farms, the program has created a total CO2E benefit of more than 305,944 metric tons – equal to offsetting emissions from all vehicles crossing the Bay Bridge for 2 years.

“Residents and businesses have embraced the city’s goal of zero waste and are actively composting their coffee grounds, food scraps and plant cuttings,” said Melanie Nutter, director of SF Environment. “The compost program not only gets us one step closer to our goal of Waste Zero by 2020, it’s also a critical component in reducing carbon emissions around the Bay Area.”

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, Americans send 32 million tons of compostable food to landfills annually. Each year, throughout the Holiday season, overall waste increases by more than 15 percent in San Francisco alone. Through the compost collection program, residents can help to reduce that number by placing all food scraps in their compost bins instead of sending them to landfill.

Approximately 300 American cities and universities in the last 4 years have followed in the city’s footsteps by collecting food scraps for composting. Increasingly, vineyards are taking the additional step of using San Francisco’s compost to grow cover crops like mustard and beans that pull carbon out of the atmosphere and store it in topsoil. Modern compost collection programs also help grow fruits and vegetables rich with nutrients that help sustain good health, create local jobs, and help farms retain more rainwater, a precious resource.