San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom recently sent in a proposal that would make recycling cans, bottles, paper, yard waste and food scraps mandatory instead of voluntary in San Francisco. But while San Francisco is charging ahead in recycling policies, Davis has some catching up to do.
The San Francisco proposal aims to create a 75 percent recycling rate by implementing numerous programs to help facilitate recycling, according to the press release from the office of the Gavin Newsom. Recyclable materials may be banned from the landfill transfer stations, and citizens risk having their garbage pickups suspended if they repeatedly toss recyclables in the trash.
As environmentally friendly as Davis strives to be, it still has a way to go until it reaches the recycling levels San Francisco has achieved.
“Each city and county is very different, so comparisons are not easy,” said Jennifer Gilbert, conservation coordinator at the Public Works Department. “Davis has always been a leader in recycling – we have a lot of innovative programs and outreach techniques.“
The Davis program, iBIN, provides every apartment with a free recycling container, Gilbert said.
“We have just dramatically expanded our recycling program with the new iBIN Recycling Program,” she said. “This program is very progressive – very few jurisdictions have accomplished a program like this.“
Davis also has a small compost program but does not have a mandatory organics recycling program as San Francisco is aiming to have.
“The city of Davis offers a year-round compost correspondence course to Davis residents,“ said Gilbert, adding that about 200 of 65,000 citizens of Davis sign up for this class annually.
Despite the new UC Davis recycling program, R4 Zero Waste coordinator Michael Siminitus said Davis is falling behind with progressive recycling.
“The city of Davis is lagging way behind with recycling because they only do bottles, cans and paper. Most progressive programs do organics, and it should be our highest priority,“ he said.
Organics recycling, one of the most important aspects of the recent San Francisco proposal, mandates that organic materials be composted instead of piled up in landfills.
“When you throw food in the trash, it gets buried at the landfill where there’s no oxygen,” Siminitus said. “The food gets broken down, but it’s broken down with anaerobic decomposition. This causes the organic material to break down into methane, which is a major cause of global warming.“
Siminitus added that most people can recycle far more than they think. “Fifty percent of what we normally put in the trash is actually recyclable organics, and instead of being composted and returned to nutrients in the soil, it contributes to global warming.“
While R4 recycling on the UC Davis campus is very active in organics recycling, the city of Davis has yet to facilitate mass recycling of food and organic materials. UC Davis is the only UC campus with a current recycling rate higher than 50 percent, and it has the goal to be zero waste by 2020, in part due to organics recycling. The recycling rate of the city of Davis is still below 50 percent.
“Organics reduces recycling waste at its source,” Siminitus said. “The future is two bins – organics recycling and other recycling. We are actively getting rid of trashcans at UC Davis, but the city is lagging.“
KELLY KRAG-ARNOLD can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.