San Francisco Zero Waste

February 18, 2009

Let’s take another problem our generation has created – tonnes of garbage, which we cram into holes in the ground. Here in Greater Victoria, our recycling rate has been falling for the last few years, not rising. We need to look south to San Francisco, which has achieved a 69% recycling rate, chasing 75% by 2010 and zero waste by 2020.

What are they doing that we are not?

They use a 3-bin system – black for regular garbage; blue for mixed paper, bottles, and cans which go to a state-of the art recycling facility; and green for food and yard waste, which they compost.

They use financial incentives, so that the more a business recycles, the lower its garbage bill: the Fetzner winery has reduced its waste by 95%. And they have banned the use of plastic bags and take-away Styrofoam food containers – restaurants must now use biodegradable, compostable or recyclable containers.

They have squads of friendly recycling missionaries who inspect people’s garbage and teach the gospel of recycling to any backsliders, and they have staffed the city’s recycling department with social activists, rather than engineers, which may be their real secret.

What would it take to turn thing around for us in Victoria, and elsewhere in BC? Zero Waste activism, citizen engagement on advisory committees, a ban on compostables going to the landfill, and taking it out of the sole hands of the engineers, as San Francisco has done.

First published in EcoNews: A monthly newsletter funded by your donations that dreams of a world blessed by the harmony of nature, the pleasures of community, and the joys of personal fulfillment, guided and protected by our active citizenship.


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