Trash collectors will start snooping through San Franciscans’ garbage next year to make sure residents are recycling and composting, under a draft new law that would ping recalcitrant recyclers with fines of up to $1,000.
Under a proposed new law drafted by the Department of the Environment, it would become mandatory for “all persons in San Francisco” to separate recyclable and compostable material from trash. Mayor Gavin Newsom had announced in April that he planned to start issuing fines to encourage recycling.
If the ordinance is adopted by the Board of Supervisors, The City’s army of private trash collectors would be charged with peering into curbside bins to check for paper, plastic, glass and food before hauling away the waste.
People who mix recyclable or compostable waste with their trash under the draft law could have their garbage collection withheld after two warnings. They would also be liable for fines of up to $1,000 for repeat offenses. Building managers would be required to provide color-coded recycling and composting containers for their tenants. If tenants do not recycle, property managers could be liable for the fines.
Most San Francisco residents live in multi-unit buildings with shared garbage bins, said Sean Pritchard, government affairs manager at the San Francisco Apartment Association. He said the draft new law would impose “absurd” requirements on apartment owners.
“It’s ridiculous to think that the landlord is going to police the garbage intake and the recycling intake,” Pritchard said. “Are we expecting the owners to rifle through the garbage?”
Environment Department recycling program manager Robert Haley acknowledged that it will be hard to know “who’s putting exactly what materials in the containers” of multi-unit buildings, and he pledged some flexibility in the law’s enforcement.
“We just want the management to put the recycling and composting containers in place and we want them to educate their tenants,” Haley said.
The ordinance includes sweeping provisions that would also force restaurants and event organizers to make trash-sorting “convenient” for their customers. Restaurants that provide recycling and composting containers would be exempt from city laws requiring them to provide trash cans.
The Mayor’s Office is hopeful that the program will lift The City’s recycling and composting rate from 70 percent today to 75 percent by 2010 — a goal established by the Board of Supervisors.
“We believe mandatory recycling can get us to the next level,” spokesman Joe Arellano
The 75 percent target is not expected to be reached by 2010 if recycling remains voluntary, according to Environment Department documents.