San Francisco Reaches Highest Recycling Rate in U.S. at 72%

  • Published on May 12th, 2009

Editor’s Note: See Mayor Gavin Newsom’s post on this announcement at


San Francisco is well on its way to reaching the lofty goal of a 75% recycling rate by 2010. Today Mayor Gavin Newsom’s office announced that the city has attained the title of US recycling king by keeping 72% of ALL recyclable material out of landfills.

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And we’re not talking simply cans and bottles here either; in 2006 Mayor Newsom instituted a Mandatory Construction and Demolition Debris Recovery Ordinance, which means that 72% number includes all waste generated on construction sites too.

“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,” said Mayor Gavin Newsom. “Clearly, mandatory recycling measures pay off; if we’re going to reach a recycling rate of 75 percent in 2010 and zero waste by 2020, we need to make sure that residents and businesses are taking full advantage of our composting and recycling programs.”

The San Francisco Department of the Environment said that in 2007 the city generated 2,100,943 tons of waste, of which only 617,833 tons went to landfills. This represents the city’s lowest tonnage sent to landfills in over 30 years.

Although 72% is an impressive number, the city sees an opportunity to go even higher.

“If we captured everything going to landfill that could have been recycled or composted, we’d have a 90% recycling rate” said San Franciso Department of the Environment Director Jared Blumenfeld. “The Board of Supervisors will soon be considering an ordinance that will require residents and businesses to sign up and use the recycling and composting programs, which we need to make our goals.”

Image Credit: Rick‘s Flickr photostream under a Creative Commons License.

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