Learn how to WASTE ZERO at the Free Small Business Week Workshop

Posted in Events, How-to..., Recology, Waste Reduction, WASTE ZERO by wastezerosf on May 11, 2011

Don’t Let Your Bottom Line Go To Waste – WASTE ZERO

Recology Sunset Scavenger and Recology Golden Gate, in partnership with the San Francisco Department of the Environment, invite you to attend a lively discussion centered around reducing waste at your business. By maximizing recycling, composting, and reuse options, you can help reduce your impact on climate change, save natural resources, and improve your company’s bottom line.

This interactive panel discussion will focus on the meaning of zero waste, how to take effective steps to reduce waste at your business, and will also provide you with information about the many free resources available help your business go green.

Bob Besso, Recology
John Hanscom, LEED AP, ESA, Renewable Resources Group
Alex Dmitriew, San Francisco Department of the Environment

Chris Levaggi, Recology

Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Session 4, 3:20-5:00pm

Sign up for this workshop

Small Business Conference 
SF State Downtown Campus

Compostable vs. Biodegradable… ugh

Posted in Composting, Recycling, San Francisco, You Should Know... by wastezerosf on July 12, 2010

We live in a world filled with complicated plastics, which include plastics #1-7, bioplastics, degradable plastics, and compostable plastics.

When people ask me recycling questions about San Francisco’s programs, I sometimes get funny interpretations. “That is combustable, right?”, “Yes”, I say, “it’s compostable”, meaning, it is acceptable in San Francisco’s green compost collection bin.

Plastic manufacturers are trying to green plastic packaging and capitalize on greenwashing.  Consumers are still trying to grasp recycling basics and when you add biodegradable and compostable plastics to the mix, it just adds to the confusion.  I often field questions from our customers who inquire about different products and their recyclability. “Can I compost my wheat-based kitty litter?”, “How about my biodegradable diapers, if there is no poo?”, “My fork says biodegradable, can I put it in the green bin?”

The answer to all of these questions is “no”, they are not acceptable in the green compost bin.

New “green” products and plastics are the cause of much misinformation and confusion.  The sales pitches, acronyms and poor labeling are so overwhelming that consumers say “I just throw everything in the recycling bin.”  This is not what recycling companies want to hear. 

The following are some examples of terms and phrases used in the “green/bio” plastics industry.

  • Biocompostable
  • New generation of plastics
  • Made from corn
  • Taterware, Spudware or Greenware
  • Renewable raw materials
  • “Feels and look like plastics for the most part” 
  • ASTM D6400
  • Polylactic Acid (PLA)

Regardless of what the manufactures claim, let’s learn how to properly sort plastics into the correct recycling, compost or trash bins.

Compostable Plastics or items certified as ASTM D6400 compliant are “capable of undergoing biological decomposition in a compost site…” (I spared you the longer version from the American Society for Testing & Materials or ASTM).  Their definition of compostable ASTM D6400 compliant plastics goes on to say, for a plastic to be called “compostable”, they need to meet three criteria. They must:

  • Biodegrade
  • Disintegrate, and 
  • Have no eco-toxicity

In short there must be no toxic residue left after the material is composted, it should look like dirt.

Biodegradable plastics that do not meet ASTM D6400 standards usually contain some plant based/“bio” plastics or additives mixed with real plastics and are not compostable or recyclable in San Francisco’s recycling programs.  Yes biodegradable or bioplastics may be greener or contain less petroleum based plastics, but once you mix plant and petroleum plastic resins you can not separate them, recycle or compost them, they go to landfill (San Francisco’s black trash bin).  Biodegradable plastics are designed to break down into smaller pieces of plastic outside of a landfill; they never “go away”.  We already have enough smaller pieces of plastics in our oceans. Do we really need more?

I advocate for zero waste everyday and hope that everyone can begin to think in the same way.  When determining what type of plastic to purchase (recyclable, compostable or non-recyclable) or any type of disposables for that matter, remember the basics (reduce, reuse, and then recycle). Ask yourself:

  • Do you really need the disposable product? What alternatives exist?
  • Can the product be replaced with something durable or reusable?
  • What is the end use or recycling options for plastics?


In San Francisco and most communities that have a three bin system, sort your plastics as follows:

  • Biodegradable plastics = landfill or trash
  • Compostable = compost
  • Recyclable (non-compostable or non-biodegradable) = recycling

WASTE ZERO everyday.

No-Fuss Options for Separating Kitchen Scraps

Posted in Composting, How-to..., San Francisco by wastezerosf on January 26, 2010

San Franciscans have numerous options for separating food scraps for compost collection.

The keys to keeping your kitchen neat and clean are to place your scraps in a container that will not leak and transfer them to a compost collection (green) cart before they begin to break down. Usually that means taking them out once a day, such as after dinner.

Please place all food scraps from the preparation of meals and all plate scrapings from unfinished meals in a compost container. You can request a kitchen pail, at no additional cost, online at, just click “order green cart.” You also can call Sunset Scavenger, (415) 330-1300, or Golden Gate, (415) 626-4000, weekdays between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.

Stores selling kitchenware offer countertop compost containers of different styles and price ranges. People typically rinse their countertop container with a little soap and water after use. Another option is to line the container with a little soiled paper, such as a paper napkin, to absorb moisture.

Source: Flickr

Paper grocery bags also can be used to hold kitchen scraps. To control moisture, line paper bags with a little newsprint or a few used paper towels. Then toss vegetable peelings, coffee grounds, and other leftovers inside. Once a day (before you go to bed) roll the top of the paper bag shut and toss it in a composting (green) cart.

Source: Flickr

A gable-top paper milk carton is another option. If you buy a paper carton with a plastic spout, which we do not recommend, split the top open and remove the plastic spout before placing food scraps inside.

Source: Flickr

Some people simply wrap kitchen trimmings in newspaper like a burrito. Newspaper and food soiled paper, such as paper napkins, mix with food scraps at the compost facility and compost well.

Please remember you should place all your food scraps, including meat and bones, soiled paper, and plants in the green cart for composting pickup.

Food scrap collection is easy; find the best method that works for you.

New data shows that composting is a highly effective way to help protect the environment. San Francisco residents and businesses have composted more than 620,000 tons of material, mostly food scraps, through the city’s green cart program. By composting all that food since the program was created instead of sending it to landfill, San Francisco:

  • Avoided creating 137,000 tons of methane gas, which the Environmental Protection Agency reports is 21 times more potent than CO2 as a greenhouse gas.
  • Sequestered, or put back into the soil, 18,400 metric tons of CO2. That is the equivalent of keeping nearly 3,600 cars off the road.
  • Created a total CO2E benefit (methane avoided and carbon sequestered) of 155,000 tons. That’s equal to reforesting 35 square miles of sustainable forest for 23 years or offsetting emissions from all vehicles crossing the Bay Bridge for 311 days.

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