There are several residents in San Francisco who dump all sorts of waste materials into one dumpsite. In other words, they hardly sort them out according to their characteristics. There are those who argue that they dumping waste in compost pits make them stink. Although the latter may be a common practice in San Francisco, it is tantamount to breaking the existing laws.
The Mandatory Recycling and Composting Ordinance was enacted way back in October 2009. It stipulates that waste sorting should be carried out by both commercial entities and individual residents. This new legal provision in San Francisco was spearheaded by Gavin Newsom. These wastes are supposed to be recycled into three main groups namely trash, compostables and recyclables. Individuals and businesses owners who do not abide by this legal requirement may be prosecuted in a court of law and possibly fined for negligence (Lemann 142).
It is important to mention that the repercussions of breaking the law are not feared by many residents. However, they understand extremely well that sorting of wastes is a legal requirement according to the laws of the land. It is also quite unfortunate that the enforcement of the law is remarkably poor. The administration of the San Francisco city does not seem to care whether the waste sorting law is being followed or not.
Since the beginning of 2011, the city has the authority to take fines from offenders of the Mandatory Recycling and Composting Ordinance law. Nonetheless, it seems that this legal provision is not active at all. Offenders of this law are not being fined at all. There are no records of any individual or business fined so far. The coordinator of the Department of the environments residential zero (Kevin Drew) also notes that the administration of the San Francisco city is not active in enforcing this law. There are hundreds of residents who are not keen to compost or recycle wastes. Besides, the impacts or inconveniency brought about by the new law are not effective.
There are three critical stakeholders who are instrumental in safeguarding the environment. These are the Department of Public Health, Department of Public Works and the Department of the Environment. Although these departments work as a team in enforcing environmental policies, they have not achieved a lot. People who violate the waste sorting ordinance are fined marginally.
For instance, those who do not have refuse service in place are charged as low as $100. This appears to be an extremely lenient mode of punishing offenders according to the provisions contained in the mandatory ordinance. Offenders should face stiffer penalties so that they can abide by the set rules and regulations.
A recent survey noted that over eight thousand residential and commercial entities had no access to garbage services within their establishments. The “Spruce Up by Sun Up” campaign was conducted for a period of five months by the Department of Public works. The main aim of the campaign was to chart the way forward on how to improve waste collection and sorting procedures.
The department is quite categorical that its main work is to educate the public on waste management. Hence, it does not carry out the recycling of wastes. This implies that if the public fails to heed by the education provided, then the Department has no additional enforcement powers against violators of the recently enacted legislation.
Over 75,000 residents are cooperating closely with the Department for the Environment in order to enhance the recycling ordinance Act. The outreach coordinating team is also an active wing of the department that works closely with over 1,000 business establishments. This close collaboration between then department and the public seems to be a good starting point in enforcing the law. However, active participation of the department without clear guidelines on how the ordinance is going to be enforced is not appropriate.
It is evident that educating the public on waste sorting and disposal procedures is yielding positive results. Current statistics reveal that about seventy-eight percent of total waste is diverted from landfills. In addition, there are about 600 tones of compostable waste that is collected on a daily basis ever since the enactment of the law in 2009. Before the ordinance became active, only about 350 tones of compostable waste could be realized. This marked improvement in the waste collection indicates that individuals and business entities are responding positively due to increased awareness from the Department of the Environment.
Nevertheless, it is prudent to reiterate that zero production of waste was a key objective of San Francisco even before the ordinance came into place in 2009. For example, the diversion rate of waste products stood at over 50 percent. This rate was mandated by the state although it lacked adequate enforcement. Therefore, another goal was set in order to improve the rate of diversion to seventy-five percent before the close of 2010. As a matter of fact, this objective was attained (AnandNew 75).
The success of the legislation has been contributed by several factors. For example, there are several composting and recycling bins that are provided by the city’s administration in order to enhance the waste collection. As a result, there are several households and commercial properties that are benefiting from this program. On the other hand, the government is attaining its waste diversion goal at a very high rate. In addition, reducing the size of waste cans is also an important initiative that the governance of San Francisco has put in place. As such, small garbage cans are being encouraged for use by all the departments that deal with public health. In order to achieve this goal, the government advances economic incentives. Hence, it is becoming easy to attain recycling benchmarks using this method.
The need to compost and recycle waste also targets established businesses. For example, the trash bill was reduced up to 75 percent in 2006 when the government opted to offer waste management incentives. According to the statistics obtained from the Department of the environment, a total of 6000 accounts composted waste products, while recycling was executed by close to 12,000 accounts. These major improvements took place in 2010. However, composting and recycling of waste products are the best alternatives that can be used to attain zero waste in San Francisco. The Department of the environment is also working towards attaining this goal although it lacks enforcement power.
Newsom’s ordinance is still being ignored by many residents and business establishments. It is unfortunate to mention that landfills are still receiving tones of wastes every year in spite of the law. About 400,000 tones find their way to the wrong location (Vaughn 76). However, it is still possible to recycle about 60% of wastes that are dumped in landfills. Moreover, the same amount of waste can also be composted. According to the California Integrated Waste Management Board, landfills received about 600,000 tones of wastes in 2008 alone (California Environmental Protection Agency par. 1). It is apparent that the amount of waste that is not sorted is remarkably high especially if consolidated for a period of one year.
The residents and businesses can only abide by the law when it is easy for them to follow. One way of making it easy for the population to obey the law is by availing compost bins at a free cost or subsidized prices. It is highly likely that residents will find themselves littering if trash bins are not adequate (Cote par. 4).
It is also prudent to mention that food establishments also release tones of wastes that are incidentally picked by residents. Although they are expected to sort and recycle these wastes, they take it for granted and consequently drop them off anywhere on their way home. Therefore, it is necessary to locate trash bins in strategic locations on the streets where customers can see easily. This will reduce the chances of littering landfills.
On the other hand, hotel establishments can sort their wastes directly from their kitchens in order to reduce the flow of wastes to customers. Similarly, businesses should equally be sensitized gather their wastes at the point of release. For example, they can have their waste collection and sorting system within their stores. There are business establishments that are already separating wastes from the back offices. They also allow customers to request to recycle used products (Goldberg par. 2).
To recap it all, the mandatory law seems to be lenient to offenders. It is the duty of all the departments to join efforts in enforcing the ordinance. Besides, the population in San Francisco needs to be educated through regular awareness campaigns.
AnandNew, Subhash. Solid Waste Management. Delhi: Mittal Publications, 2010. Print.
California Environmental Protection Agency. 2000 Accomplishments and Priorities. 2003.
Cote, John. S.F. mayor proposes fines for unsorted trash. 2008.
Goldberg, Jamie. Got Trash? City Relies on Education to Sort It. 2011.
Lemann, Martin. Waste Management. Bern: International Academic Publishers, 2008. Print.
Vaughn, Jacqueline. Waste Management: A Reference Handbook. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO Inc., 2009. Print.