SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Trash collectors in San Francisco will soon be doing more thanjust gathering garbage: They'll be keeping an eye out for peoplewho toss food scraps out with their rubbish.
San Francisco this week passed a mandatory composting law thatis believed to be the strictest such ordinance in the nation.Residents will be required to have three color-coded trash bins,including one for recycling, one for trash and a new one forcompost — everything from banana peels to coffee grounds.
The law makes San Francisco the leader yet again inenvironmentally friendly measures, following up on other greeninitiatives such as banning plastic bags at supermarkets.
Food scraps sent to a landfill decompose fast and turn intomethane gas, a potent greenhouse gas. Under the new system,collected scraps will be turned into compost that helps area farmsand vineyards flourish. The city eventually wants to eliminatewaste at landfills by 2020.
Chris Peck, the state's Integrated Waste Management Boardspokesman, said he wasn't aware of an ordinance as tough as SanFrancisco's. Many cities, including Pittsburgh and San Diego,require residents to recycle yard waste but not food scraps.Seattle requires households to put scraps in the compost bin orhave a composting system, but those who don't comply aren'tfined.
"The city has been progressive, and they've been leaders and itappears that they're stepping out of the pack again," he said.
San Francisco officials said they aren't looking to punishviolators harshly.
Waste collectors will not pick through anyone's garbage, saidRobert Reed, a spokesman for Sunset Scavenger Co., which handlesthe city's recyclables. If the wrong kind of materials are noticedwhile a bin is being emptied, workers will leave what Reed called"a love note," to let customers know they are not with theprogram.
"We're not going to lock you up in jail if you don't compost,"said Nathan Ballard, a spokesman for Mayor Gavin Newsom whoproposed the measure that passed Tuesday. "We're going to make itas easy as possible for San Franciscans to learn how tocompost."
A moratorium on imposing fines will end in 2010, after whichrepeat offenders like individuals and small businesses generatingless than a cubic yard of refuse a week face fines of up to$100.
Businesses that don't provide the proper containers face a $500fine.
Sean Elsbernd, one of the two supervisors who opposed theproposition that passed 9-2, said the measure was "over-the-top"and that calls to his office Wednesday were critical of the newlaw.
"This is just going to aggravate and aggrieve homeowners who aredoing their best," said Elsbernd.
But proponents say it is important to get people's attentionabout the importance of keeping those biodegradable materials outof landfills.
Ballard predicted that recycling food scraps eventually willseem as ho-hum as saving aluminum cans and newspapers.
"That used to seem like such a chore," he said. "Now we do itevery day."
Newsom was expected to sign the measure if the board passes itin a final vote next week.
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