The city of San Francisco has been leading the charge for “zero-waste” for the past decade. San Francisco- already divert 80% of their waste from landfills thanks to an aggressive recycling and composting plan enacted by the city. The ultimate goal set out by the city council is to reach a 100% recycling rate by the year 2020. And last August saw the introduction of a brand new program titled “Pay Per Setout” to help the city move closer to that goal.
Recology, San Fran’s contracted waste hauler, began rolling out a pilot program that knocks off 10% of a customer’s trash pickup bill if they do not leave out any landfill waste. The program works by giving customers three different waste bins, one for landfill trash, one for recycling, and another for compost material (IE food stuff). If a customer only puts out their recycling and composting bins on a given week, then they get the 10% discount off their monthly bill. This can be done for a maximum of three out of four weeks, meaning residents can shave 30% off their total bill.
The program is designed to reward those who put the extra effort into recycling their waste. The city already requires households and businesses to compost and recycle a portion of their waste, but they have yet to say goodbye to the old landfill permanently. There are still many waste items that pose a challenge for conventional recycling practices such as tires, e-waste, and furniture. Though this problem has been mitigated to some extent by the huge variety of materials that Recology accepts. They take in a much larger range of materials than other cities’ recycling programs which is a larger factor in the city’s current recycling rate of 80%.
It is hoped that a combination of new financial incentives,such as the Pay Per Setout program, as well as Recology’s improved recycling methods, will make San Francisco the first zero-waste city in the United States. And if past performance is any indication, they might just make that happen.