Compost or Die | News | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice


Compost or Die


Published June 11, 2009 at 2:45 p.m.

Yesterday I heard a report on the inimitable "All Things Considered" on NPR that San Francisco just passed a law requiring people to compost. Well, not exactly. The law actually says that people are prohibited from throwing away things such as coffee grounds, orange peels or leftovers that have been sitting in the fridge since your birthday dinner at TGIFridays four months ago. The city will now have three different trash collections: recycling, compostable refuse and non-compostable refuse. All San Fran residents have to do is put their rubbish in the right bin and they won't be subject to a whopping $100 fine ($500 for businesses). The fines don't start for another two years, to give people time to learn that you can compost your snotty tissues, but you can't compost your old Styx cassette tapes.

This new ordinance was proposed by the city's dishy mayor Gavin Newsom and is arguably the toughest recycling law in the country. Residents will use three different trash bins: blue for recycling, green for compost and black for trash. (I love color-coding. It makes life so much easier.) Anyway, the report insisted that this rule will not make trash police out of garbage collectors. No one will rifle through the empty Cheetos bags and TV dinner scraps. So, how they'll enforce this law makes me scratch my tiny head. Maybe if I read the whole article in the San Francisco Chronicle, I'd find out.

This whole mandatory composting deal is an effort to  achieve a 75 percent recycling rate by 2010 and a zero-waste program by 2020. For a city of 765,000, this seems to be a tall order. First, people have to learn what composting is. I swear, before I came to Vermont three and a half years ago, I didn't have a clue what it meant to compost. Even now, when I allegedly compost, I don't even know what's going on. I guess my food scraps are supposed to somehow break down and make stuff I can use to pot my plants with.

Anyway, what I wondered as I was listening to the report in my car was, Why is traffic moving at such a glacially slow pace? I also thought, Why isn't Burlington doing this?

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