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New law orders big businesses to sort their trash or hire someone to do it for them

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If San Francisco wishes to keep food scraps and plastic out of landfills, recycling and composting should be the most convenient options for residents. (Mira Laing/2017 Special to S.F. Examiner)

Hundreds of San Francisco businesses will have to sort their trash properly for recycling or else hire janitors to do it for them under legislation approved Tuesday.

The Board of Supervisors unanimously approved legislation introduced by Supervisor Ahsha Safai that targets about 400 of San Francisco’s biggest producers of trash — hotels, restaurants, office buildings and large apartment buildings.

The proposal met with significant opposition from businesses, and Safai has made a number of concessions since he introduced it in June.

Under the law, businesses will undergo an audit once every three years. If they fail the audit, they will have to hire trash sorters for at least one year.

Failure to comply could result in daily fines of $1,000.

Safai said targeted businesses are about 1 percent of the total Recology customers in San Francisco but produce 20 percent of the waste going to the landfill.

“Less than 1 percent of the account holders are essentially hogging up the landfill that every ratepayer in the City and County of San Francisco pays for,” Safai said.

He noted customer rates increased 14 percent last year and part of the increase is attributed to the cost of maintaining the landfill.

The proposal comes after San Francisco city officials acknowledged earlier this year that they will fail to meet a goal of sending zero waste to the landfill by 2020. The City has set a new goal to cut in half by 2030 the 600,000 tons of garbage going to the landfill today.

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