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Published on May 12th, 2009 | by Gavin Newsom

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Recycling Our Way to a More Sustainable Future

May 12th, 2009 by  


Recycling Gavin Newsom

Editor’s note: This post is a contribution by San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom. See his last post on electric vehicle charging infrastructure or all of his previous posts here. A companion piece was also posted on RedGreenandBlue.org earlier today.

San Francisco is a city that knows how to recycle. We work hard to give new life to our paper, bottles, cans and other waste.

New statistics released today show we are keeping 72 percent of all discards from going to the landfill – up from 70 percent the year before.

That’s a big leap for one year. The most significant gains came from the recycling of material from building sites – due in large part to our 2006 mandatory Construction and Demolition Debris Recovery Ordinance.

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By requiring builders to recycle debris from construction projects, we were able to divert tens of thousands of new tons of material away from the landfill. This ordinance is unique in that it doesn’t require deposits or bonds, making it small business-friendly and limiting the amount of bureaucracy needed to implement the program.

When it comes to our recycling programs, we’re always in the development phase. In order to meet our ambitious goal of 75 percent recycling by 2010 and zero waste by 2020, we are constantly looking for additional materials to recycle, and for emerging markets to make use of our recyclables.

A few years back we developed—along with the company Recology, our partner in recycling — an innovative program to collect food scraps and turn them into organic soil. Local farms and vineyards now use this soil to grow crops, which are then sold back to consumers in San Francisco. We close the loop locally.

We’ve also recently started recycling almost all types of plastic. We take everything except plastic bags and Styrofoam. Most of it gets made into plastic molding and bender board.


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About the Author

was the youngest San Francisco mayor in over a century when he was elected at the age of 41. Newsom, the son of William and Tessa Newsom, grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. He attended Santa Clara University on a partial baseball scholarship, graduating in 1989 with a B.A. in political science. After only 36 days as mayor, Newsom gained worldwide attention when he granted marriage licenses to same-sex couples. This bold move set the tone for Newsom’s first term. Under his energetic leadership, the economy grew and jobs were created. The city became a center for biotech and clean tech. He initiated a plan to bring universal health care to all of the city’s uninsured residents. And Newsom aggressively pursued local solutions to global climate change. In 2007, Newsom was re-elected with over 73% of the vote. Since then he has built upon the successes of his first term, launching new environmental initiatives and a comprehensive strategy to transform one of the city’s most troubled neighborhoods into a life sciences, digital media, and clean tech center.



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