Mayor Lee Announces San Francisco Reaches 80 Percent Landfill Waste Diversion, Leads All Cities in North America

Recology & City Recycling & Compost Program Creates Jobs, Stimulates Growth of Green Economy & Supports City's 2020 Zero Waste Goal. News release, posted: 10/5/2012

Mayor Edwin M. Lee today announced San Francisco has achieved 80 percent landfill diversion rates, setting national recycling and compost rate records as the highest of any city in North America.

"Recycling and composting is not only good for our environment, it is also good for our economy," said Mayor Lee. "Recycling alone creates 10 times more jobs than simply sending refuse to the landfill, and I applaud Recology, the Department of Environment and San Franciscans for reaching this record milestone of 80 percent diversion."

San Francisco now diverts 80 percent of all waste generated in the City away from landfill disposal through source reduction, reuse, and recycling and composting programs. The City's partnership with Recology and its advanced waste reduction programs have helped San Francisco become the Greenest City in North America and receive a perfect score for resource recovery and recycling category in the 2011 Siemens Green City Index.

"San Francisco is demonstrating once again that zero waste is an achievable and environmentally responsible goal," said Board President David Chiu. "I thank Recology and the Department of Environment staff who are reaching out and educating our residents and businesses to make sure they continue to recycle and compost our way to zero waste."

"San Francisco is now much closer to achieving its goal for zero waste and becoming a leader for sustainability in the nation," said District 5 Supervisor Christina Olague. "We're really proud to be part of that movement to reduce our carbon footprint."

"As a proud partner of the City and County of San Francisco, Recology is thrilled that our efforts on behalf of the City and our customers have contributed to this record setting achievement," said Recology President and CEO Michael Sangiacomo. "We can think of no better way to celebrate this achievement than by continuing towards the goal of Zero Waste now with the many aggressive and innovative efforts in place for this weekend's events."

"Innovative policies, financial incentives, as well as outreach and education are all effective tools in our toolbox that have helped San Francisco reach 80 percent diversion," said San Francisco Department of Environment Director Melanie Nutter. "We would not have achieved this milestone without the hard work and partnership of many people and businesses across the City."

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, recycling creates ten times as many jobs as sending material to landfill. According to the More Jobs Less Pollution: Growing the Recycling Economy in the US Study from Blue Green Alliance, if all cities in the United States recycled and composted like San Francisco it would create 2.3 million jobs.

Progress with recycling and composting is also helping San Francisco reduce its carbon footprint. Waste sent to landfills produces methane, a greenhouse gas which is up to 72 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

While landfill disposal is at the lowest level on record and has been reduced by half over the last decade, San Francisco still sends 444,000 tons of material to the landfill each year, which is enough to fill the TransAmerica building nine times. Half of that material could be recycled or composted and actually belongs in the blue and green bins.

San Francisco's mandatory composting and recycling laws, combined with zero waste policies like the one enacted by the Port of San Francisco, require that all event organizers develop and execute plans for managing waste. This weekend's events will also continue these zero waste efforts:

  • Giants playoffs Sat & Sun (AT&T Park diverts over 80% of game day waste
  • 49ers vs. Bills (Candlestick Park diverts over 87% of game day waste)
  • Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival (Green Mary diverts 85% of waste)
  • Castro Street Festival (Community Housing Partnership diverts 76% of waste)

"After ten years of doing event waste diversion, I still love what I do. With my fabulous, huge green team, we go to great events and help them be greener, but we all need to pay attention to using fewer resources," said Mary Munat, owner of Green Mary, an event waste diversion small business.