Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Me dost think they protest too much

Holy Cow. California's Assembly is voting on a measure to ban plastic bags
from grocery, convenience and other stores under a proposal that appears headed for a major legislative victory this week.

When San Francisco got involved earlier in the fray on this issue, with Ross Mirkirimi leading the way, the howls of protests came up on SFGate. And in the end, the world is still spinning and there are fewer plastic bags out there, and now the state - and other states! - are following the lead.

Some people just hate the concept of change, but it turns out that human beings are amazingly adaptive creatures (assisted by the fact that we also die, meaning that those who have the most invested in the "old way" have to deal with the "new way" for the least amount of time). History has plenty of examples.

For example, San Francisco has had a composting program for years. Food scraps soiled paper, and other compostable items are supposed to be put in a green compost bin instead of in the trash. Last year, Gavin Newsom decided to make it "MANDATORY". The biggest problem with the system was that in a lot of large apartment buildings, the apartment owner/manager did not provide green bins for their tenants, many of whom would prefer to put their compostables into the compost stream. This system is good for the city - the city sells compost, but pays to put trash into a landfill. Another big problem was that restaurants - which produce huge amounts of food scraps - were not participating.

The mandatory program required the larger apartment buildings to provide green bins, and included a system of warnings and eventual fines for noncompliance - for putting your banana peels into the green bin. I read about this and really thought Gavin was barking up the wrong tree again - and I say this as an obsessive composter (I have been known to move scraps my wife throws in the trash into the compost bin). My thinking is that a carrot is more effective than a stick. Perhaps we could increase the overall trash bill, then rebate SF citizens a "dividend" based on how much money the City made selling compost and recyclables (this would have the added benefit of giving all citizens a clear stake in preventing recycling theft). But whatever, Gavin got his photo op.

Needless to say, the howls on SFGate and even SFist were over the top. Our citizenry was going to be overrun with rats or risk huge fines from a money grubbing government.

Fast forward 8 months and check it out.

"People are dealing with it just fine," he said. "For most people, the green composting bin is just another part of life in San Francisco."

There were groans and worries aplenty when Mayor Gavin Newsom first proposed making composting mandatory as part of the city's ambitious effort to divert all its waste from landfills and incinerators by 2020.

"There certainly was a lot of concern that we were going to be garbage cops," Westlund said. "But we haven't fined anyone, and more and more people are getting involved."

Under the ordinance, no multi-family buildings or multi-tenant commercial properties will be fined until at least July 2011. But since Dec. 1, garbage collectors have left around 8,500 "contamination" notices to customers, reminding them to separate their trash.

"Our people don't dig through the trash, but they do see what's on top when they wheel the carts to the truck," said Robert Reed of Recology, which has the garbage-collection contract for San Francisco. "We're trying to encourage people to be more attentive."

Plenty of city residents are cooperating with the program. About 63 percent of city apartment buildings with six or more units now participate, compared with a little more than 25 percent last year, Reed said. More than two-thirds of the city's households now have the green composting carts, while more than 75 percent of San Francisco's restaurants are involved.

In April, for example, the city collected an average of 525 tons a day of plants and food scraps destined for the compost heap. That's up 22 percent from the 430 tons a day gathered the year before.

You can't argue with facts. Way to go Gavin.


Yokota Fritz said...

Recycling theft? Are you talking about the people who dig through the recycle bins for CRV bottles and cans?

murphstahoe said...

Yes - recycling theft. The contents of the bins is property of the City (at least that's my understanding).

"City and State law prohibits the theft of any recyclable materials."

The loss of high value recyclables comes out of the City's coffers. $500,000 a year.

In SF, there are fleets of small pickup trucks that go out in the middle of the night and rustle through the bins. Aside from the monetary theft, it's quite a ruckus if you live on a dense street.

It's not just cans/bottles. Cardboard and even newsprint can be worth taking.

djconnel said...

Not to mention credit card applications, bills, and whatnot.

The issue isn't paper or plastic, it's disposable or reusable. We've got to break our paradigm that every purchase generates a new, fresh carrying container. Bring your own should be the rule, not the exception.

295bus said...

They steal aluminum cans out of the recycling in Redwood City--but the guys who do it make their rounds by bike :)

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