Forbes, February 29, 2012
Alameda County recently passed a mandatory recycling ordinance in a bid to divert 90 percent of its “readily recyclable and compostable materials” by 2020. Alameda County includes much of the east San Francisco Bay Area, including Oakland and Berkeley. The county is following in the footsteps of its ambitious neighbor across the bay, the city and county of San Francisco, which has a goal of zero waste by 2020. It has already achieved a 77 percent diversion citywide.
Some municipalities fear that intensive waste management will be expensive. But the value of the resources extracted more than compensates for those expenses, according to a study by StopWaste.Org, a program of the Alameda County Waste Management Authority.
In 2009, San Francisco became the first county in the nation to mandate composting, expanding the program from its initial foray into curbside compost collection in 1996. While some people grumbled, most complied. Today, Recology collects about 600 tons of food scraps and yard debris each day, and that material is turned into compost for local farms and vineyards. It also gives away compost to San Francisco residents.
California leads the United States in cities aiming for high waste diversion, perhaps due to California’s Integrated Waste Management Act of 1989, which required that each local jurisdiction increase its diversion rate from landfills to 50 percent by Dec. 31, 2000. Other leaders around the globe include Italian cities and Canadian and Australian governments. However, according to the Institute for Local Self Reliance in the United States, recycling targets that focus on landfill diversion alone are missing a key part of the puzzle. Rather, a resource values approach is key.