Spoke to Bob Besso, who manages NorCal’s waste reduction program. That puts him in charge of the compostibles collection. Right now, he says, about 40% of people participate, on a voluntary basis, and he blames that relatively low rate on the “ick-factor” that keeps more people from separating their food waste from their conventional recyclables and the rest of their trash. (If you put food scraps in the regular trash, you can put it in a plastic bag and not really have to touch it again when it’s time to transfer it to the main bin. For food waste, the plastic doesn’t work, so you get to be just a little more intimate with it.)

In about two years, San Francisco is supposed to meet its goal of 75% diversion of waste from landfill. Currently, it’s only at 69%, and Besso doesn’t think that the goal can be reached without making compostible separation mandatory. (When I ask about San Francisco’s zero waste goal by 2020, Besso says he hopes to be retired by then.) Right now, he has people going bin to bin and door to door, to alert folks to the possibility of reducing their garbage. There’s a mild financial incentive, because you might be able to drop down to a lower monthly collection rate if you can squeeze the hopeless garbage into a smaller can. Obviously, most of San Francisco is way too well off to worry about a few dollars a month. So the question arises: what does move people to make the change?


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January 2008
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