Natural Foods Merchandiser

San Francisco to start composting and gardening

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom signed into law a mandatory recycling and composting ordinance earlier this summer that requires residential and business owners to sign up for the city's recycling- and composting-collection programs.

Although the city has had a recycling program in place for decades, it is the first in the nation to require the collection of food scraps and other items for the production of compost.

San Francisco currently boasts a 72 percent recycling rate. But a recent environmental study found that 36 percent—mostly food—of what the city sends to landfills can be used for compost. Another 31 percent is recyclable. If the city could capture that material, its recycling rate would quickly climb to 90 percent, according to the San Francisco Department of the Environment.

Buildings not currently recycling and composting are encouraged to do so immediately. The ordinance calls for a $100 maximum fine for residences and businesses; higher fines can be imposed on businesses and large-apartment-building owners who refuse to offer composting and recycling opportunities to tenants.

In July, Newsom, who is running for California governor, also issued an executive directive that would give city departments six months to identify unused city land—empty lots, medians, even rooftops—on which to create community gardens. The hope is that the gardens would benefit residents by providing employment and a market for produce.

In addition, all vending machines on city property would be required to offer healthy alternatives, and food vendors that contract with the city would have to dish out healthy options. Farmers' markets that don't already accept food stamps would be required to start. The San Francisco Board of Supervisors is expected to review and vote on the ordinance this month.

But effective immediately, all food purchased by the city must be healthy and sustainable. No more jelly rolls and doughnuts during morning meetings. Bagels must be quartered, or at least halved, in an attempt to get people to eat less, and vegetable trays are replacing potato chips in all city departments.

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