San Francisco Celebrates 25 Years Of The Country’s Best Composting Program

Jamie Ferrell Jamie Ferrell

San Francisco Celebrates 25 Years Of The Country’s Best Composting Program

San Francisco collects more than 500 tons of organic waste per day to be used on local farmland.

San Francisco started its innovative composting program back in 1996. Since then, it has been wildly recognized as the most comprehensive and successful composting program in the country, achieving extensive climate success and helping the city move toward its goal of being a Zero Waste City. These days San Francisco collects over 500 tons of organic waste from the green bins every day, to be used on local farmland, vineyards, and ranches. Yesterday, we celebrated 25 years of composting in San Francisco!

In celebration of these achievements, the Department of the Environment and the Mayor’s Office are proposing a recycling and composting challenge for residents throughout the holidays. The goal is for people to use their green (compost) and blue (recycling) bins more than their black trash bin. The Department of the Environment will be giving out free compost pails for people to use in their homes.

In 1996, the city’s composting program began as a food scrap collection program at the San Francisco Wholesale Produce Market. Local hotels got involved, and eventually the city began implementing curbside collection of organic waste on a voluntary basis. In 2009, SF began the 3-bin system we continue to use today, making it the first US city to mandate composting and recycling.


Proper compost of food scraps is an essential function of the city’s waste program, because when food scraps are disposed in landfills they can eventually start releasing methane gas, which contributes to global warming. That’s why compost from the city is transported to Recology’s Blossom Valley Organics in Vernalis, where materials are processed and eventually sent to be used on local agriculture. The organic materials helps enrich the soil, improve plant quality and growth, reduce chemical fertilizer use, and subsequently reduce the risk of wildfires. Since the program’s inception, San Francisco has diverted over 2.5 million tons of compostable material away from landfills.

“I’m so proud of our residents and businesses that continue to step up and redefine what it means to be a sustainable city,” said Mayor Breed. “For decades now, San Franciscans have steadily increased the food scraps they’ve collected in the green bin, helping us get closer to that Zero Waste City we aspire to be. This perseverance and dedication have showcased what’s possible to cities all around the world looking to emulate our practices.”


Featured image: Deno Marcum via Shutterstock

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