San Francisco’s New Composting Law: Six Weeks and Counting


In about six weeks, composting will be more than just typical in San Francisco; it will be mandated by law as well. Under a new law, the city’s residents and businesses must compost all food scraps or risk paying fines. But according to a recent SF Gate article, although the law has yet to be implemented, San Franciscans are already rising to the challenge, composting 15 percent more material than they did just a few months ago.

Mayor Gavin Newsome passed the composting law in June in keeping with the city’s goal of sending nothing to landfills or incinerators by 2020. (San Francisco, already one of the nation’s greenest cities, currently diverts 72 percent of its waste from landfills.) The law new law will require that every home and business sort materials into separate trash, recycling, and compost bins. Failure to do so will result in warnings and, in egregious cases, fines of up to $1,000.

Since the law’s passage, the city’s Department of the Environment has already increased the number of composting bins it doles out in a day from five or 10 to approximately 130. The city is also composting approximately 480 tons of material a day – a 15 percent increase from previous levels.

When the law takes effect on October 21, eco-conscious tenants unable to obtain composting bins from their landlords can now point to the law for backup, and sustainable city proponents can rest assured that all businesses will compost. The increased availability of composted material is expected to benefit local businesses (for example, those that use compost for fertilizers), the environment, and the city.

Sarah Harper is a professional writer based in San Francisco, California. Her interests include sustainability, government policy, and international politics. In her free time, Sarah enjoys toying with the idea of holistic health, overanalysis, and plotting world exploration.