SF residents face new, strict recycling rules


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Everyone in San Francisco is now required, by law, to have three different recycling bins -- black for trash, blue for recycling and green for composting things like coffee grinds, egg shells and last night's leftovers.

Rita and David Cawfield manage a 92-unit apartment building in San Francisco. They have put recycling and composting bins on every floor, but some tenants still do not seem to understand what goes where.

"It bothers me a great deal, as they all know from my constant reminders," Rita Cawfield said.

San Franciscans generally do pretty well with the blue bins to recycle cans, bottles and paper. The new law is an aggressive push to force every resident and business to use the green bins to compost food scraps.

"It's helping us keep things out of landfills and it's also return nutrients to the soil and help prevent global warming," San Francisco Department of the Environment spokesperson Jean Walsh said.

The city says it already diverts more than 70 percent of its waste from landfills. The goal is to send nothing there by the year 2020, so the green bins are key.

More than 100 new bins are being delivered to homes and offices every day and outreach workers are going door to door to educate customers.

"We often hear concerns about odor and bugs; that's really a false phobia, there are lots of ways to handle food scraps in the kitchen or at work, put it in a paper bag or a compostable bag and close it up and at the end of the day toss it in a green cart," garbage-collection company Recology spokesperson Robert Reed said.

Reed estimates about one-third of the city's apartment buildings, half the homes, most restaurants and even high rise offices are on board. Those who do not get with the program face fines starting at $100 dollars, but the emphasis these first few months is on education. But as Rita Cawfield is finding out, the learning curve is steep.

"They don't take recycling as seriously as they should," Cawfield said.

The city says there will not be such a thing as garbage cops, inspectors lifting lids to see if residents correctly sorted their trash. They will focus first on making sure everyone has ordered the bins and signed up for the program.

LINK: Learn more about recycling in San Francisco

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