The US is the number one producer of garbage all over the world, consuming 30% of the planet’s resources and producing 30% of all its wastes. The number is surprising considering that the US is home to just 4% of the global population. As the world modernizes and the population grows, producing more waste, waste management programs need to improve. Many are pointing to San Francisco because the city achieved an 80% landfill diversion rate, the highest in the nation. Furthermore, the city has set a goal of zero waste by 2020, meaning that no material goes to landfill or high-temperature destruction. Although specific programs many not be suitable or appropriate to imitate in other parts of the world, San Francisco has become the nation’s leader and model city for waste management and recycling in the US due to its unique geographical characteristics, mandatory recycling laws, public participation, and efficient recycling system.
First, San Francisco’s unique geographical characteristics enable the city to establish and enforce mandatory recycling programs. San Francisco is densely populated and has a large number of older, small multi-unit buildings. “Multifamily dwellings account for nearly 45% of housing units in San Francisco, which is significantly higher than the national average of 16%.” When housing in the city is comprised of structures of five units or fewer, it makes it easier for trucks to collect and sort garbage. Programs such as “Pay-As-You-Throw”, where households are charged for waste collection based on the amount of trash they throw away, can operate in San Francisco because they consist largely of single-family or small-unit apartments.
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13. “Recycling Programs.” epa.gov. n.d. Web. 30 March 2014.
14. Rogers, Heather. Gone Tomorrow: The Hidden Life of Garbage. New York: New, 2005. Print.
15. “San Francisco on Track to Become Zero Waste City.” pbs.org. PBS Newshour, 25 January 2013. Web. 30 March 2014.
16. “Waste Characterization Study.” sfenvironment.org. March 2006. Web. 30 March 2014.
17. “Waste Management.” sustain.sfsu.edu. n.d. Web. 30 March 2014.
18. Wollan, Malia. “San Francisco to Toughen a Strict Recycling Law.” nytimes.com. New York Times. June 10, 2009. Web. 30 March 2014.
19. Zborel, Tammy. “Waste Reduction: Strategies for Cities.” ucdenver.edu. n.d. Web. 30 March 2014.
20. “Zero Waste FAQ.” sfenvironment.org, n.d. Web. 30 March 2014.
21. “Zero Waste Program.” epa.gov. n.d. Web. 30 March 2014.
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