Failure to Recycle to be Punishable by $500 Fine in San Francisco

san francisco recycling mandatory photo

Photo via SF Chronicle

San Francisco already has one of the highest recycling rates out of any city in the country—but apparently, it's not high enough. Unsatisfied by its nearly unparalleled progress, city officials are now about to make recycling and composting mandatory for each and every San Franciscan. And if they don't comply? They can say hello to a $500 fine—it's the first time in the US that a citizen could be fined for failing to recycle.According to Green Inc,

The ordinance, which will be considered by the city's Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, would require residential and commercial building owners to sign up for recycling and composting services. Fines of up to $500 would await those who refuse. There would also be penalties for those who put recyclable or compostable material in landfill-bound bins.

This is bound to raise some sticky ethical issues from critics—should everyone be forced to compost even if they don't want to? Will it lead to the creation of a 'garbage police' who'd rummage through your refuse, keeping you up at night worried that you'd sorted your trash incorrectly? That is in fact the concern of many of the initiative's detractors:
Some building owners have expressed concern the law will create "garbage police" who riffle trash bins to make sure every banana peel or soda can is in its proper place.

This seems unlikely, and city officials argue that the point is to get building owners and businesses to sign up for the services. Because despite SF's already solid progress, it's clear that a problem still remains:
According to city statistics, residents and businesses sent 617,833 tons of waste to the landfill in 2007. More than 35 percent of it was compostable and about 30 percent was recyclable (mostly paper). If everything were properly sorted, the city would have a 90 percent recycling rate . . .

San Francisco's not the first city to move towards mandatory recycling—Pittsburgh, San Diego, and Seattle each have similar laws; just without the threat of fines. San Francisco's proposed law will see a vote soon, and seems slated to pass. And to the critics, I say fear not--we already have laws prohibiting littering by fine, and our nation hasn't spiraled into a draconian 1984ish nightmare yet.

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