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Home arrow Environment arrow A Recycling Sucess Story
A Recycling Sucess Story PDF Print Email this article
Written by Bright Future Staff   
Thursday, Jul 10, 2008

Problem:  The perception in many communities it that recycling does not produce measurable results.  Every year millions of tons of potentially valuable materials are deposited into landfills.  Much of that waste is organic material that can break down and seep into public water supplies.  Some of these organic materials release pathogens that can degrade water quality.

Solution:  Community commitment to recycling programs produces excellent results over time when goals are set.  Communities that dedicate innovation and resources to recycling programs are able to successfully recycle the majority of their waste.  The recycling of organic materials reduces the possibility of organic pathogens being deposited into municipal water supplies.

In 1960 over 88 million tons of solid waste was generated in the US.  By 2000 this number had increased to 223 million tons.

In 1960 over 88 million tons of solid waste was generated in the US.  By 2000 this number had increased to 223 million tons.  These numbers do not include sewage, industrial and agricultural waste production, or hazardous materials.  (Source: US Department of Energy, Renewable Energy Division).  Most of this waste is deposited into landfills.

These figures make it clear that very little of the country’s waste is recycled, and that the problem is growing.  When confronted with these figures many officials insist that comprehensive recycling programs are simply not feasible.

San Francisco now recycles over 60% of their solid waste.

One city begs to differ.  San Francisco, California has shown that recycling programs are not only feasible, but also provide other benefits to the community as well.  San Francisco and many of the surrounding communities in the Bay Area have been developing recycling programs since the 80’s.  The results are impressive.  San Francisco now recycles over 60% of their solid waste.  The folks in SF have set ambitious goals for the future – they plan to recycle over 75% of their waste by 2010 and 100% by 2020.  Many other Bay Area cities have followed SF’s lead and are striving to meet the goal of zero waste by 2020.

...the methane gas produced from the digester to produce electricity which powers their operation and saves thousands of dollars in energy bills.

Most communities do not even attempt to recycle organic waste.  San Francisco began to develop programs to recycle organic waste about 10 years ago.  Today, SF boasts a successful food-composing program that collects 300 tons of food scrapes per day from restaurants and homes and turns them into fertilizer that is sold to local organic farms and vineyards.  Many of these farms are enjoying record yields from this nutrient rich compose.  In Marin County, just across the Golden Gate Bridge from SF, the Straus Family Creamery installed a methane digester in 2000 to recycle their organic waste.  The dairy uses the methane gas produced from the digester to produce electricity which powers their operation and saves thousands of dollars in energy bills.  The California Energy Commission stated in their 2004 report that the dairy’s organic recycling process met or exceeded expectations. 

Other communities would be wise to learn from SF’s success.  There are some important reasons why this program succeeded where other programs have failed.  First, SF made a long-term commitment to recycling.  Second, both government officials and local citizens and businesses believed in and supported the program.  Third, ambitious goals were set to motivate progress along a definable timetable.  This is a proven formula for success. 

 
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