Fees may be added to promote recycling

San Franciscans could pay an additional $65 million to The City on top of their trash collection fees in future years under a proposal to reduce waste and promote recycling.

Today the San Francisco Environment Commission will receive a report that recommends new fees on the collection of trash that The City says should be reused or recycled instead. The report recommends across-the-board fees based on yearly city recycling rates.

The fees, according to the report, would discourage people and businesses from tossing away recyclable or reusable waste, and the revenue could be invested in projects that fight global warming.

The City has reduced the amount of waste it sends to the landfill, from 872,000 tons in 2000 to 664,000 tons in 2005, and it currently recycles 69 percent of its waste, according to the report. Most of San Francisco’s waste goes to an Altamont landfill, which is expected to fill up by 2012 if current disposal rates continue.

Tossing away items that could be reused or recycled contributes to global warming, according to environment Director Jared Blumenfeld.

Global warming is a weather-changing phenomenon that’s said to be accelerated by fuel-burning and other human activities that fill the atmosphere with gases such as carbon dioxide.

Today’s meeting of environment commissioners will mark the first step in a long process that could see a “waste offset fee” introduced to The City by 2010, according to Blumenfeld. He said the proposal will be considered and discussed publicly by commissions and boards before it’s considered by The City’s Rate Board.

Barbara Meskunas, executive director of the San Francisco Taxpayers Union, described the proposal as outrageous. “It’s a new tax,” she said. “Environmentalism is the latest fashionable smokescreen for all manner of taxpayer abuses.”

The report, by researchers at the Presidio School of Sustainable Management, suggests different methods to calculate the new fee. One of those methods could increase city revenues as much as $64.9 million a year — or $87 per resident, based on census data — at current disposal rates.

The Rate Board includes representatives from different city departments. The board in 2006 allowed trash-collection companies to hike their residential trash-collection rates by 27 percent over five years up to $24.33 per month in 2011 for a 32-gallon trash can, according to city documents.

jupton@examiner.com  

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