Environment

Mandatory Composting Hits San Francisco

| by Reason Foundation

Remember the '80s, that golden time when a garbage barge cruised from New York to Belize and back, looking for a place to dump its load? What turned out to be a jurisdictional dispute with some bad PR management nonetheless delivered symbolism too good to pass up, and wound up igniting fears that we were running out of space for our trash.

Thus, the vogue for recycling took off. Children everywhere came home from school and nagged their parents to "reuse, reduce, recycle." (Sorry mom, I know that was probably really annoying). Eventually, though, recycling became more like a civic duty and less like a moral imperative.

But now 1980s fashions are back, and it was only a matter of time before landfills became our enemies again:

Food scraps sent to a landfill decompose fast and turn into methane gas, a potent greenhouse gas. Under the new system, collected scraps will be turned into compost that helps area farms and vineyards flourish. The city eventually wants to eliminate waste at landfills by 2020.

Not to worry, though. The city of San Francisco is on the case! And this time, it's even grosser than rinsing out your tuna cans:

San Francisco this week passed a mandatory composting law that is believed to be the strictest such ordinance in the nation. Residents will be required to have three color-coded trash bins, including one for recycling, one for trash and a new one for compost—everything from banana peels to coffee grounds.

Next step: Night soil collection?