Recycling is a way of life in San Francisco

Despite any wariness about the mandatory recycling and composting ordinance that went into effect last October, San Franciscans have really stepped up to the plate and made the program a great success.

The good news is that composting and recycling rates are way up citywide – we are now recycling or composting 77 percent of our waste stream material, and the amount we are sending to landfill is the lowest on record. The number of businesses with compost service has nearly doubled, and the number of apartments on board with the program has tripled in the past year.

Perhaps San Francisco’s remarkable diversion rate isn’t all that surprising, considering our city’s record when it comes to environmental accomplishments. We were the first in the United States to ban plastic bags, we imposed a surcharge on cigarettes to offset the  clean-up costs of discarded butts, and we gave San Franciscans the right to know cell phone radiation levels at point of sale.

Perhaps you consider yourself an environmental champion because you are a San Franciscan who has helped us earn the reputation as the city that knows how – to recycle, to compost, to reuse, and to find alternatives to consuming our precious natural resources. Maybe you operate one of the many restaurants and food establishments that use recyclable or compostable foodservice ware in place of Styrofoam. Or maybe you live in one of the apartment buildings that now offer their tenants the ability to compost, another first in the nation.

All San Franciscans who use their green and blue bins have helped make our 77 percent diversion rate possible and should be proud of their contribution to this enormous achievement.

But there are still some businesses and apartments that aren’t pulling their weight. We get many calls from apartment dwellers who want their property managers to provide the green bin they are entitled to, as well as from customers who would like their favorite local businesses to offer recycling and composting.

The S.F. Department of the Environment together with Recology offer a variety of free resources to help residents and businesses comply with our composting law. We provide free kitchen pails for food scrap collection and technical assistance to help office buildings and apartment buildings set up a successful program. We offer staff training in a variety of languages to employees. Many businesses, apartments and offices can save money as they send less trash to the landfill and compost and recycle more. We will even go door-to-door in apartments to deliver kitchen pails and answer any questions about how to participate in the program.

So why isn’t everyone composting and recycling in San Francisco? They should be!

If you know of an apartment, condominium complex, restaurant, office building, business, or event in San Francisco that needs some help setting up their composting and recycling program, let us know. Go to and fill out our anonymous report form, or call 415-330-1300. We will contact the business or property manager and let them know that we can offer help.

Chances are, after witnessing the money they save and the good they are doing for the environment, they will thank us in the end.

Melanie Nutter is the director of San Francisco’s Department of the Environment. For more information on the City’s environmental policies, visit