San Francisco considers hiring trash sorters to reduce waste

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ByDion Lim via KGO logo
Tuesday, October 30, 2018
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Do you know how to sort your trash? The city says hundreds of large companies and organizations in San Francisco don't.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Do you know how to sort your trash? The city says hundreds of large companies and organizations in San Francisco don't.

In response, supervisors are voting on legislation that would require hiring a trash sorter to make sure recycling, waste, and compost are put in their proper place. Those who don't comply receive stiff penalties of up to a thousand dollars a day.

District 11 supervisor Ahsha Safai proposed the legislation and says it stems from the city's desire to reach zero waste by the year 2020.

"We had a hearing last year and found out 60-percent of the waste was recyclables or compostables in the city. People are just not doing the job of separating. What we found was that these are large account holders that are hogging up all the space in the landfill. The average San Franciscan does a good job sorting."

Safai says it's normal citizens who end up paying up more in trash fees.

Robert Reed of Recology in San Francisco is an expert on sorting. Recology is the city's largest waste management company and process 650 tons every single day.

"We collectively probably produce three and a half million tons of rubbish every day," says Reed.

Break that down to pounds and that's four and a half pounds per person, per day in the US. Reed says this is a reminder of the importance of paying attending when sorting your trash.

"Three bins, two labels each, six labels in total. Using photography," Reed points to each bin, "to what's inside." He continues.

While sorting comes as second nature to Reed and the Recology team who work on a series of giant sorting decks, weeding out the cardboard from the glass and plastic, it's not so easy for everyday people like Dan Kreiter, who works in the audience development department at ABC7 news.

We caught up with Kreiter after his lunch.

"Sushi containers trouble me a lot. I'm not sure where this goes, but I would guess recycling?" shrugs Dan as he proceeded to toss a Starbucks cup into the compostable bin.

To help with any confusion, the city along with Recology, launched an initiative called "Better At The Bin": a campaign to educate and inspire consumers to become better at recycling.

A vote on the legislation to hire trash sorters in San Francisco is set for Thursday.