Toughest Recyclers In the West (Or Anywhere)?

The city of San Francisco approves a plan to require composting and recycling citywide by this fall, with fines kicking in within two years.

"The Board of Supervisors voted 9-2 Tuesday to approve Mayor Gavin Newsom's proposal for the most comprehensive mandatory composting and recycling law in the country. It's an aggressive push to cut greenhouse gas emissions and have the city sending nothing to landfills or incinerators by 2020.

'San Francisco has the best recycling and composting programs in the nation,' Newsom said, praising the board's vote on a plan that some residents had decried as heavy-handed and impractical. 'We can build on our success.'

The ordinance is expected to take effect this fall.

The legislation calls for every residence and business in the city to have three separate color-coded bins for waste: blue for recycling, green for compost and black for trash.

Failing to properly sort your refuse could result in a fine after several warnings, but Newsom and other officials say fines will only be levied in the most egregious cases."

Full Story: S.F. OKs toughest recycling law in U.S.



Ahhh San Francisco.

More nanny-state bs if you ask me. Our Betters in SF City hall passed a law mandating that the citizens of San Francisco have to achieve 0-waste by 2020 (i.e. this is a completely arbitrary goal passed by former politicians who are no longer in office). To implement their arbitrary goals (and arbitrary interim targets) while currently broke, the City govenrment has to pass the costs (i.e. doing the actual job of sorting trash) onto the back of its citizens. To ensure that everybody else does the City government's bidding, the City will begin fining those that don't in 2011 (i.e. when the current mayor and several currently serving board-of-supervisors that voted for this are gone). Notice the burueacratic double-speak in the article... we don't want to fine people, fines will be capped, you can get waiver, the billd doesn't create a trash police. All code for fines will be vigorously enforced upon the end of the moratorium, fines will go up dramatically once we find out how much money we can make here, only the politically connected will get ever be able to get a waiver and we'll leave the creation of the trash police to another bill at a later date. I've lived in San Francisco since 2002 and have seen bills like this come and go several times, and always with the same promises (only egregious cases will be fined...etc.). As soon as the money starts coming in, all that BS goes out the window. And of course, those that actually passed the law have moved on (and moved out of San Francisco) to another bs government job. A fun fact, recently the City switched street cleaning in many neighborhoods from weekly to every other week to save money. However, recently-elected supervisor Avalos found that the City actually made money of street cleaning due to the revenue from parking tickets issued and has proposed reinstating weekly street cleaning to increase revenues for the City's broke-as#. Just goes to show you who these folks are really governing for (multiply by 1000 and an impartial observer may gain an insight into my cynicism of Our Betters here).

Yes, I do believe cutting waste to landfills is a great idea. If the City really wants to do it, please pay the waste management organizations to sort trash offsite (couldn't be that hard to do) or mandate that as part of the waste management contract and have them charge residences for doing so. Politicians would be unlikely consider this approach because it would be a) transparent, b) costs would immediately be obvious instead of arbitrarily off in the future and c) it can just get citizens of SF to do it for free (and actually make money off them through fines) why wouldn't they?

Recycling And Responsibility

Why shouldn't people handle their own garbage responsibly?

We can fine people for throwing litter on the sidewalk rather than disposing of it properly, and we should also be able to fine people for sending their garbage to the landfill rather than disposing of it properly. Litter is a relatively minor esthetic issue, and recycling is a much more serious issue of conserving resources.

It is less efficient to have waste management organizations sort trash off site than to separate at the source, and we would have to raise taxes to pay for it. In this case, I take the conservative approach: personal responsibility rather than tax-and-spend.

Charles Siegel

Backdoor Tax and Spend

"Why shouldn't people handle their own garbage responsibly?" Of course they should. San Francisco already diverts 72% of its waste from landfills (it's in the article - if you believe the City's own stats on it)... best in the nation. Plus, you gotta remember that no recycling program in the US makes money, so San Francisco citizens are already paying the taxes/costs of these programs (through their garbage rates and personal time sorting their trash voluntarily). Apparently, everyone chipping in to do that is not good enough to meet a new and improved ARBITRARY standard. That's the real beauty of the whole program, the goal is utopia (zero-waste) and any dissenters will be fined for not participating in the arbitrary path there... who can argue with utopia?

I do like your play on words, government mandates equals personal responsibility... government-inspired orwellian doublespeak at its finest. If the government decides it wants to do something, in this case, eliminate more waste from landfills, there are several ways to do it. San Francisco chose the typical government bs nanny-state way, pass the cost along to all citizens at no cost to itself. That way the folks who passed the law can take all the credit for passing this law now ("doing-something") and none of the blame when the fines start rolling out (and it is guaranteed that they will roll out no matter what they say now). You mention that sorting offsite is less efficient than sorting at the source... the question is for who? Not for the folks who have to sort at the source at the compulsion of avoiding a fine. It's actually more efficient for them to throw everything in one bin and pay someone to sort it offsite (unless every citizen in SF somehow has a comparative advantage in trash sorting?). The law is actually a backdoor tax that everyone will have to pay with their time.

San Francsico citizens already handle their garbage responsibly (and pay the cost for the programs already in place) on a voluntary basis (best in the nation). Now, in the name of arbitrary standards they will be fined for their already responsible handling of their garbage... the author of Catch-22 would be proud.

Free Riders and Recycling

"San Francisco chose the typical government bs nanny-state way, pass the cost along to all citizens at no cost to itself."
"I do like your play on words, government mandates equals personal responsibility... government-inspired orwellian doublespeak at its finest."

People who create the problem should deal with the problem; they shouldn't be subsidized by the taxpayers in general. Eg, if people buy bottled water, they should recycled the bottles; their waste shouldn't be subsidized by all taxpayers, including taxpayers who don't buy bottled water.

You can make exactly the same arguments about littering that you do about recycling? You would say:

There should not be a fine for littering, because people in X city already put 72% of their litter in the trash cans, the best rate in the country. X city is planning to fine people for littering in the name of the ARBITRARY utopian standard of 100% of the litter in the trash cans. This is a backdoor tax that everyone will have to pay with their time.

In reality, without fines for littering, people who act responsibly by throwing their litter in the trash must pay extra for city workers to clean up after people who act irresponsibly by throwing their litter in the street. The same is true today of people who act responsibly by recycling and must pay extra to landfill or separate the trash of people who act irresponsibly.

This is a classic example of what economists call a "free rider" effect. In cases like this, you must pass laws banning the irresponsible behavior so that the taxpayers in general (including the people who act responsibly) will not have to subsidize the free riders. That is not Orwellian double-speak: it is basic economic reasoning.

Charles Siegel

Recycling and Littering

"People who create the problem should deal with the problem". What problem, a 72% recycling rate is now a problem? People, with encouragement from the City of San Francisco (three different bins) are voluntarily sorting their trash (and paying for it ith their time) because they think it is the right thing to do. Those who do not recycle are simply not diverting their waste from the landfill that everyone has already paid for and agreed upon as the proper place to put their waste. Not recycling is fine in this case (there's no actual problem), which is why your littering example is off the mark. You equate that fining people for NOT DOING something "good" (assuming that recycling is "good") is the same as fining people for DOING something bad (littering). These are two wholly different concepts. Littering is an actual problem because it violates the public's property rights (and as such, should be punishable by fines).

Free Riders and Changing Laws

You are ignoring the economic argument about the free-rider effect. In the case of both littering and sending trash to the landfill, the irresponsible minority is extracting subsidies from the responsible majority. The majority has no obligation to provide these subsidies.

"landfill that everyone has already paid for and agreed upon as the proper place to put their waste. Not recycling is fine in this case (there's no actual problem),"

In the past, people agreed that the landfill WAS the proper place to put waste. Now that this new law has been passed, people no longer agree that the landfill IS the proper place to put waste.

Throwing resources into the landfill does create severe problems of resource depletion, which everyone will recognize by the end of this century. By that time, people will be shocked to hear that we used to throw paper, steel and aluminum in the landfill.

Charles Siegel

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