We San Franciscans are a pretty smug bunch when it comes to our trash. Back in 2009 our fearless Board of Supervisors passed the toughest recycling law in the country, mandating composting of food scraps and yard waste as well as recycling of all paper, cans, and glass, and most plastic (no bags!). Of course, some people griped about it (and two Supervisors voted against it), but in August 2010 there was a big media splash when former mayor Gavin Newsom announced that we had reached a goal of diverting 77 percent of our trash from the landfill to the compost heap or the recycling plant. And that was two years early, by the way.
By now most of us are in the habit of dragging three cans to the curb for pickup — blue for recycling, green for compost, and black for almost everything else. The “almost” is because stuff like batteries and paint can’t be thrown in the trash at all. Put your batteries in a plastic bag and place it on top of your garbage can, and your friendly Recology trash-picker-upper person will dispose of them properly.
So, what goes in which can?
The green can is for yard waste (think grass clippings, tree branches, weeds, but no dog poop!) and kitchen scraps. As the Recology website says, this includes “anything that used to be alive;” all other food scraps like vegetables, bread, grains, and coffee grounds; food-soiled paper, cardboard, and paper towels; and compostable cutlery and paper plates.
The blue can is for recyclables: all glass, paper, metals, plastic (except bags), and cardboard. That’s a lot of what goes through my house each week.
What’s left? The rest goes in the black can. The list of what goes here is pretty specific: plastic bags, wine corks, pens and pencils, rubber bands, styrofoam, sponges. Get the idea that after producing the lists for the blue can and the green can that there wasn’t much left to head to the landfill?
If you’re brushing up your green cred and you want to be extra sure that you’re putting everything in the correct can, check out the Department of the Environment’s Ecofinder tool, which — because this is San Francisco — is also available as an iPhone app.