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SF Hits Waste-Reduction Target Two Years Early

Recycling and composting helped the city of San Francisco divert 77 percent of its garbage from landfills in 2008, which it hailed as a national record and the highest of any city in the U.S.

The city's performance pushed it past its 2010 waste diversion goal two years early. The Northern California city wanted to divert 75 percent of its waste from the local landfill by 2010, and to send no waste to landfills by 2020.

In 2008, the city of San Francisco diverted 1.64 million tons of waste, out of 2.14 millions tons of waste generated. In 2007, the city's waste diversion rate was 72 percent.

The city credits its recycling and composting programs with helping it reduce landfill waste. The figures, however, are for 2008, the last year for which data is available. But it wasn't until late 2009 that the city's mandatory recycling and composting program went into effect requiring all residences and businesses to compost food scraps, yard trimmings and soiled paper.

Since the law went into effect, composting in the city has risen 45 percent to nearly 600 tons of compostable materials a day, compared to 400 tons a year ago.

"We've beat the 75 percent goal, so now our push is to get to zero waste by 2020," Melanie Nutter, director of San Francisco's department of environment, said in a statement. "If we captured everything going to landfill that can be recycled or composted in our programs, we'd have a 90 percent recycling rate, but we will need to work on the state and federal level to require that packaging and products are manufactured with minimal waste and maximum recyclability."

The city needs to further reduce the amount of waste it sends to landfills because the local landfill where it sends trash is expected to reach capacity by 2013. City research suggested as much as a third of its waste could be composted, while another 31 percent could be recycled.

Image CC licensed by Flickr user ToastyKen.

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