Ready, Set, Rot: San Francisco Makes Composting Mandatory

Ready, Set, Rot: San Francisco Makes Composting Mandatory

Rene Ebersole
Published: 10/22/2009

San Francisco has made it illegal to absentmindedly scrape leftover Chinese takeout in the regular old trash. Get caught with your sesame broccoli in the wrong bin and you could get fined. That’s how serious the City by the Bay is about attaining its goal of producing zero waste by 2020.

As of yesterday, all residents and businesses are legally required to discard food waste in a separate sealed compost bin that gets picked up by the city. San Fran follows Seattle in requiring households to recycle food scraps (Seattle’s policy became law last April). However, Seattle exempts businesses and apartment buildings. Frisco isn’t letting anyone off the hook. And so far, many of its residents seem happy to comply.

In fact, NPR reports that the Organic Annex, where the city’s food waste is trucked, is already processing more than 500 tons per day.

What does the city do with all that rotting refuse? It turns it into what gardeners like to call “black gold” for use on the region's farms and vineyards, which in turn supply residents with fresh produce and wine. Not a bad arrangement, if you ask me.

Want to get in on the act? You don’t have to wait for your city to pass a law. Start composting now. Find out how with Audubon Magazine’s recipe for “Black Gold.”