As summer starts, San Francisco’s job market is heating up.

City’s zero waste efforts produce jobs

As summer starts, San Francisco’s job market is heating up. A new city law requiring large apartment buildings to keep more trash out of landfills goes into effect next week. In response, the demand for services that can help with compliance is expected to grow.

“We are adding many types of jobs from corporate, data science and facilitator staff to achieve zero waste,” Nik Balachandran, founder and CEO of Zabble, a local company that uses mobile technology to simplify waste audits, track and monitor waste, and improve efficiency, told me.

“This is an example of technology augmenting field staff, not replacing them, making their job easier and more efficient.”

Zabble isn’t the first business to benefit from strong environmental laws. The renewable energy industry has grown considerably over the past decade because of progressive climate policies.

Now, efforts to phase-out plastic pollution, reduce waste and make the most out of existing resources are also helping small businesses expand and San Franciscans, as well as people around the country, find new jobs.

The law requiring large buildings to properly sort their trash or face fines is simply the latest example.

Supervisor Ahsha Safai introduced the legislation after it was revealed that a significant portion of what ends up in our trash should be recycled or composted. Large apartment complexes, which are covered by the ordinance, have presented a challenge to San Francisco’s waste reduction efforts for years. I’ve found apartment buildings’ compost bins hidden behind locked doors and down remote alleys while investigating compliance in the past. Of course, educating the constant influx of new San Francisco residents is also difficult.

To avoid fines, Supervisor Safai’s legislation allows sites to hire help. That’s a service companies like Zabble can provide.

“My Green Jobs legislation provides cost-saving measures for these large waste producers by mandating they employ Zero-Waste Facilitators who will be tasked with sorting their trash on-site, which in turn will reduce their overall garbage bills,” Supervisor Safai told me. “I am happy that this will go into effect soon and know it will be a success in reducing our waste and helping to achieve our environmental goals.”

Last week, Balachandran was interviewing candidates for new jobs at Zabble, many of whom are San Franciscans. While he could not estimate how many new employees the company would eventually hire, he did note that around 400 buildings fall within the requirements of the new law. Serving these buildings, as well as others that simply want the company’s help equates to growth, revenue and more jobs.

But the buck doesn’t stop with Zabble. Companies are also benefiting from bans on unnecessary single-use plastic. When San Francisco joined other cities and countries to ban plastic straws last year, Indiana-based paper straw company, Aardvark, witnessed a 5,000 percent growth. It opened a new manufacturing facility this year to employ more winders, wrappers and material handlers.

“With the addition of this new plant, we are on track to increase capacity by 700 percent by the end of 2019,” Andy Romjue, president of Hoffmaster’s Foodservice Division, the parent company of Aadvark Straws, told me. “Today, due to our quality and capacity, we see ourselves as the leading US-based provider of paper straws.”

As awareness of plastic pollution and unnecessary waste grows, so will the demand for different services and products. Imagine a business that delivers and picks up food in reusable containers, or the return of bygone fixtures like the milkman. To truly reduce the amount we throw away, we’ll need people to repair small electronics and mend torn pants. Possibilities and opportunities abound for small businesses and entrepreneurs.

“We’ve experienced steady growth in the last two years, and are having a hard time keeping up with demand,” Carolynn Box, co-founder of Goods Holding Company, a San Francisco-based business that provides reusable jars for easy bulk bin shopping, told me. “But we are up for the challenge and are inspired by all of the people we see moving away from single-use plastics.”

Robyn Purchia is an environmental attorney, environmental blogger and environmental activist who hikes, gardens and tree hugs in her spare time. She is a guest opinion columnist and her point of view is not necessarily that of the Examiner. Check her out at

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