Wednesday, June 24, 2009

San Francisco requires food-scrap separation

Much of the East Coast seems to have missed this, but San Francisco broke new ground yesterday in forcing restaurants and other businesses to operate in a more environmentally responsible manner. Mayor Gavin Newsom, a former restaurateur himself, signed a bill that will require restaurants, all other businesses and even households to separate food scraps and other compostable materials from recyclables and trash. It's the first city in the nation to adopt such a provision.

Restaurants will also be required to retain a company to haul away the refuse, as residential properties are currently required to do.

Here's precisely what will be required of restaurants, from an online town hall guide:
Owners or managers of food vendors and special events are required to maintain appropriate, color-coded (blue for recyclables, green for compostables and black for trash), labeled containers in convenient locations, and educate tenants, employees and contractors, including janitors, on how to separate materials.

Food vendors that provide disposable foodware must have appropriate containers for recyclables, compostables and trash for use by customers and visitors, placed inside near a main exit.

The Department of the Environment conducts free workshops, and provides materials and other assistance and to help produce zero waste events.

Places that fail to heed the new law will be warned by their carters. If the non-compliance continues, the haulers are expected to alert authorities, who could levy fines of up to $1,000. The penalty is capped at $100 for "small contributors," or businesses that generate less than a cubic yard of compostable material per week.

The restaurant industry has shown considerable interest in composting, both to reduce its hauling fees and to be greener. One of the complications has been a fear about sanitation. Do you want an open bucket of food scraps festering in a kitchen all day, when the temperatures could climb to a desert's level?

But, if you've ever composted, you know the solution is just to make frequent runs to the containers outside. It'll mean a little more diligence, not necessarily a health hazard.

In any case, lots of areas will no doubt be following San Francisco's lead and weighing whether they, too, should foster composting by requiring the separation of food scraps.

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