About The Bay: SF Composting Law Keeps Leftover Food From Needy

SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) – San Francisco businesses and residents generally get good marks from environmental advocates for their efforts to reduce, reuse and recycle. But, all that eco-friendly behavior appears to be taking food out of the mouths of the city’s hungry.

Specifically, commercial kitchen leftovers that in the past were donated to organizations feeding the needy are instead being transformed into dirt, as more groups and individuals buy into the concept of composting.

KCBS’ Mike Sugerman Reports:

“Compost is the in thing. Donating to the hungry is not so cool anymore,” summed up Mary Risley, founder of Food Runners, a volunteer organization that has for the past 25 years been taking leftover food from San Francisco businesses and distributing it to places that feed the hungry.

At its height, Food Runners was redistributing 22,000 pounds of food per week.

“Everybody has a green bin now and they just drop their food in the green bin and the city picks it up and takes it up to Vallejo and cooks it and makes it into dirt in a matter of weeks,” Risley described the steep decline in donations of local leftovers.

Overall, San Francisco’s garbage recycling rate stands at 72% nowadays.

“The more you divert and compost your recycling, the lower your garbage bill is,” pointed out Randy Martin, who runs a company that coordinates recycling programs for many of San Francisco’s hotel kitchens. “And so if you’re not diverting you’re being charged more for your garbage.”

“A lot of the food is still going,” he suggested, ” but I’d say that we’ve probably seen about 60% drop-off.”

The scraps and leftovers dumped in composting bins are turned into high nutrient soil, which is in turn sold to vineyards and farmers.

“With the composting program now, it’s just easier and more beneficial for these businesses to compost their leftover food versus taking the time to pack it and make sure that it’s handled properly and runs off to the nonprofits,” Martin added.

“You’ve got to choose your battles,” he said. “And, you know, my mission, my company’s mission is to keep things out of the garbage. And how do you do that? You try to do it the best you can and again, coming back to the logistics of donations, it’s important to do it but I don’t know if it gets done as much as it used to.”

(© 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

More from Mike Sugerman
  • H.Stein

    Interesting possible side affect: We are noting more sightings of rats downtown at night around composting bins from hotels/ restaurants etc and a notable increase in both rats and mice infestations than in recent years.

  • Dennis Nichols

    BWHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA….Progressive thinking at its best! This predicament was predictable.

  • Bloodhounds

    I guess there are more republicans in SF than I thought.

  • Edi Matzel

    My understanding was that retaurants were NEVER allowed to donate food. It used to be thrown out, and now it is comopsted. The law forbides used food to be donated.

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