Posts tagged ‘San Francisco’

Calif. moves to ban plastic bags at grocery stores

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – It could soon cost California shoppers at the checkout aisle if they forget to bring their own bags to the store under what would be the nation’s first statewide plastic bag ban.

The California Assembly on Wednesday passed legislation prohibiting pharmacies and grocery, liquor and convenience stores from giving out plastic bags. The bill also calls for customers to be charged for using store-issued paper bags.

The goal is to get rid of unsightly disposable plastic bags that often wind up in urban rivers and the ocean, as well as to reduce the number of bags heading for landfills.

“The biggest way to eliminate this kind of pollution is to ban it,” said Assemblywoman Julia Brownley, D-Santa Monica, who authored the bill.

Discouraging plastic bag use through fees or bans first gained traction outside of the U.S. in nations such as South Africa, Ireland, China and Bangladesh.

In 2007, San Francisco became the first U.S. city to require supermarkets and large drug stores to offer customers bags made only of recyclable paper, plastic that can be turned into compost, or sturdy cloth or plastic that can be reused.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. got rid of plastic bags at three of its Northern California stores this January as part of a pilot program to gauge customer response.

No other U.S. state has adopted a ban, according to Brownley’s office.

The bill, AB 1998, still needs state Senate approval. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger praised the Assembly for passing the plastic bag ban, which he called “a great victory for our environment.”

Ashley Smith, 29, of Sacramento said she favors banning plastic bags, even though she reuses her plastic bags to pick up after her dog.

“It’s good to do things that are good for the environment,” Smith said as she left a Safeway grocery store in Sacramento.

Requiring stores to charge customers for paper bags is a cost Republican lawmakers argued some Californians can’t afford.

“This is not the time to be putting a financial burden on families in a very tough economy,” said Assemblyman Ted Gaines, R-Granite Bay, who estimated his family would spend $50 a year on paper bags.

The American Chemistry Council estimates the bill would amount to a $1 billion tax and threaten 500 jobs in the plastic bag manufacturing business.

The measure has the support of the California Grocers Association, which decided to the back the bill after Brownley agreed to subject all stores that sell groceries to the ban.

It also gives grocery stores one set of rules to follow rather than a patchwork of local ordinances, said Dave Heylen, spokesman for the association.

“As more and more cities started looking at this, each one would tweak it one way or another and that was extremely difficult for those retailers who have stories in multiple cities and counties,” Heylen said.

The bill would require stores to sell reusable bags beginning Jan. 1, 2012. Stores could charge no less than 5 cents for recycled paper bags if customers don’t have their own bag.

Sacramento shopper Brett Akacin, 37, said he recycles his plastic bags and that it would be a burden to carry a disposable bag. California grocery stores are required under current law to collect used plastic bags that customers return to the store to recycle.

“It’s a hassle. I don’t want to carry my own bag all the time with me. I go into the store randomly, and I don’t like to pay extra for a bag,” said Akacin, who had two bags of groceries. “I think it’s the store’s responsibility.”

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June 3, 2010 at 10:04 AM Leave a comment

S.F. activists protest ‘toxic’ compost

San Francisco wears its environmental consciousness like a green badge of honor.

Residents separate and recycle their food scraps. Streets close to cars so people can walk and bike them. A city department even gives away “high-quality, nutrient-rich, organic bio-solids compost” to all takers.

But hold on there.

A public interest and environmental advocacy group says the city’s free compost, used by community, backyard and school gardens, is processed sewage sludge — the product of anything flushed, poured or dumped into the wastewater system.

The sludge, the group says, includes potentially thousands of industrial, pharmaceutical and chemical toxins and carcinogens.

“This sludge belongs in a hazardous waste dump,” said Ronnie Cummins, the Organic Consumers Association’s national director, before he poured some of the compost on carefully laid out plastic sheeting at the steps of San Francisco City Hall on Thursday.

The protest, he said, was the launch of a campaign the organic foods movement is planning to wage against the use of bio-solids compost.

Several cities in California have bio-solid compost giveaways, including Los Angeles, San Diego, San Juan Capistrano, Santa Rosa, Fortuna, Carlsbad, and Calabasas, according to the Organic Consumers Association.

Sewage or bio-solids compost is also packaged and sold in major house and garden centers across the country.

‘Greenest large city’
Fertilizer made from bio-solids is used on millions of acres of land all over the United States to grow plants, according to a report by the U.S. Geological Survey. That fertilizer is not treated and heated to the point where it becomes compost and is not used for human food crops, though it is used for animal food crops.

San Francisco’s bio-solids compost has become the focal point for the issue precisely because it is so environmentally aware, say organic groups.

“San Francisco as the greenest large city in the country should be the first to stop this,” Cummins said.

But The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, which manages the city’s sewage treatment, says that the 1 percent of the city’s 80,000 tons of sewage that is converted into compost each year is treated and tested to the point of sterility.

Federally mandated testing shows that the compost has far lower levels of nine pollutants than the Environmental Protection Agency deems acceptable, a PUC spokesman said. “We’re in the business of protecting public health and the environment,” said Tyrone Jue. “That’s our mandate and our mission statement. That’s what we do. If for even a minute we thought one of our activities was going against that mandate we would absolutely stop doing it.”

Testing for chemicals
But the problem, say groups like the Organic Consumers Association and the Center for Food Safety, is that the EPA only requires testing for nine metals, when there are potentially thousands of chemicals in the compost.

The EPA is evaluating if more pollutants need to be regulated, and believes additional studies are needed, said Lauren Fondal, an environmental engineer for the EPA office in San Francisco.

“I don’t believe there have been any major studies of all these chemicals that we’ve begun detecting,” she said.

There is no hard science that bio-solids compost is perfectly safe, the organic groups say, while there is anecdotal evidence that it is not.

In 2008, for example, a federal judge in Georgia ruled in favor of farmers who sued the United States Department of Agriculture when their cows became ill and died after eating silage grown on land upon which the compost had been applied.

U.S. District Court Judge Anthony Alaimo concluded that “the EPA cannot assure the public that current land application practices are protective of human health and the environment.”

‘Organic’ or not?
Last fall, The Center for Food Safety, a watchdog group with offices in Washington, D.C., and San Francisco, tried to raise awareness of the bio-solids issue when it petitioned San Francisco to end the compost giveaways.

The city made no promises. But the PUC did stop calling its free compost “organic.” Under USDA rules, no sewage sludge compost, or farms that use bio-solids, can be called “organic.”

On Thursday, when the Minnesota-based members of The Organic Consumer Association held their “toxic sludge giveback” at City Hall, five protesters were flanked by about a dozen reporters and curious passersby.

One of those watching was Jue of the PUC. He said that the city still considers the compost giveaways a pilot project. The city has held six giveaways since 2007. Jue said none are planned for the near future.

“Of course, if the public doesn’t want it, we’ll stop,” he said.

For article click HERE

March 5, 2010 at 2:38 PM 1 comment

Recycling push puts Berkeley’s budget in dumps

Tuesday, February 9, 2010 (SF Chronicle)
Matthai Kuruvila, Chronicle Staff Writer

Berkeley’s $144 million budget is in the trash can – literally.
In a $10 million deficit announced last week, the single biggest factor –
$4 million – was a decline in its refuse revenues.
The city says, in part, that it’s a victim of its own success. Residents
pride themselves on aggressively recycling and composting, so they’re
switching to smaller, cheaper trash cans – the only collection for which
the city charges.
“The whole business model for recycling and garbage has been to
incentivize recycling,” said Andrew Clough, the city’s deputy director of
public works. “We’re going to have to do a new business model.”
The recession is altering the economics of garbage around the country,
according to refuse companies in San Francisco and Alameda counties.
With people buying fewer toys and trinkets, there’s less packaging and
cardboard waste. If a business fails, there’s no trash to pick up. With
construction lagging, there’s less debris at the transfer station.
“Not only does the amount of garbage change with the economy, but the very
nature of garbage changes,” said Robert Reed, a spokesman for Recology
Sunset Scavenger, which handles garbage, recycling and compost for San
But the issue hits Berkeley particularly hard, because it’s one of only a
few cities that still does its own garbage and refuse pickup.
The construction industry collapse has played a big role in the reduction
in drop-offs at the local dump, decreasing Berkeley’s revenues by 15
percent even though it hiked the transfer station rates by 10 percent in
Struggling businesses account for another 15 percent decline.
And residents, switching to smaller bins, have caused an additional 8
percent revenue decline.
They are people like Lucy Mahaffey.
After years of paying for a 32-gallon can, Mahaffey’s family of four
switched to the smallest can, 13 gallons, two months ago. Because they put
food waste and many food containers into the compost bin, and sort out
recyclables, almost all that’s left over is plastic bags.
“I felt funny going to the smaller rate,” said Mahaffey, 47. “It’s the
same amount of stuff going out – and trucks and garbage people required to
take it away.”
In a year’s time, Berkeley’s residents and businesses have increased the
amount diverted from landfills from 61 percent to 66 percent, said Ken
Etherington, the city’s manager for solid waste and recycling. They still
trail behind San Francisco, which last May reported a 72 percent diversion
Because Berkeley provides its own service, it lacks funds to buy many
technologies required to recycle even more products, like certain plastics
or concrete.
The economics of recycling has always been subsidized by commodities’
resale values. But those also collapsed over the past year. Paper went
from being worth $187 a ton in July 2008 to $46 a ton in January 2009 and
$116 a ton in December 2009. Aluminum went from $1,908 a ton to $679 to
$1,200, Clough said.
What to do next hasn’t yet been decided, but it will be the subject of a
special City Council meeting at 5 p.m. today. Included among the
short-term plans to bridge the budget gap are an extension of a hiring
freeze, giving employees voluntary time off without pay and deferring
capital projects.
Residents were socked with a 20 percent rate hike in August, so Clough
said his department would be looking at cutting costs and improving
efficiencies first.
“So much waste isn’t going to the landfill,” Clough said. “But there’s
still a significant cost to move that material from the resident.”

The original article can be found here on

February 18, 2010 at 11:59 AM Leave a comment

Keep it up USF!

RecycleMania is underway at USF, with the university hoping to top its 4th place finish in the Food Service and Organics recycling category and 60th place finish overall nationally in 2009. RecycleMania runs through March 27.

Let’s keep USF’s new zero-emission electric Zap recycling truck and Facilities Management’s Mirrain Polanco busy loading and unloading recycle carts for transport to USF’s recycling compactor for the competition.

Photo by Joe Murphy

February 16, 2010 at 10:14 AM Leave a comment

San Francisco Launches Global Sustainable Tourism Initiative in U.S.


Mayor Newsom to introduce resolution at US Conference of Mayors

San Francisco, the birthplace of the United Nations, will be the lead US city to partner with the Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria Partnership, a coalition of more than 40 international conservation, development, and travel industry organizations to implement sustainable tourism principles. The City will work with the San Francisco Convention & Visitors Bureau to encourage and promote local businesses that protect cultural heritage and the environment.

“San Francisco is proud to support sustainable tourism here and abroad. As a city at the forefront of the environmental movement, we understand the need for tourism that brings economic benefits to communities without damaging the environment or harming local culture,” said San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, who will introduce a resolution, with the support of Miami and Baltimore, encouraging member cities to endorse the Criteria at the US Conference of Mayors this weekend. Miami and Baltimore, in addition to San Francisco, have committed to adopt the criteria for use in their respective cities.

“The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is pleased that San Francisco has taken the lead in moving the Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria to the next level. This initiative will help to ensure that tourism will benefit, not harm, the environment and local communities”, said Amy Fraenkel, Director of UNEP’s Regional Office for North America. “We are hopeful that cities across the U.S. will join in this effort by signing onto the resolution and adopting the criteria.”

The Partnership, initiated by the Rainforest Alliance, the United Nations Environment Programme, the United Nations Foundation, and the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), spent 15 months developing 37 Criteria, with the aim of harmonizing elements from more than 60 existing sustainable tourism certification systems from around the world. Sustainable tourism, in contrast to “green” or “eco” tourism, addresses cultural and socio-economic impacts of tourism in addition to environmental ones.

“We commend Mayor Newsom and San Francisco for leading the way in sustainable tourism,” said Erika Harms, Executive Director of Sustainable Development for the UN Foundation. “It is exciting to see how cities are utilizing the criteria and we encourage other cities to follow the lead of San Francisco, Miami, and Baltimore to help us preserve unique city destinations for future communities and travelers to enjoy.”

More than 25 restaurants, bars, and hotels have been recognized as San Francisco Green Businesses for meeting the City’s rigorous environmental standards for waste reduction, pollution prevention, and energy and water conservation. Tourism businesses which implement the Criteria and are recognized San Francisco Green Businesses or are Greenopia-rated will be listed as participating in an upcoming Sustainable Tourism Program in San Francisco.

“San Francisco’s 16.4 million visitors last year spent $8.52 billion — generating over $527 million in taxes for the City of San Francisco. The San Francisco Convention & Visitors Bureau looks forward to promoting this endorsement and encouraging our members to support the Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria,” according to Joe D’Alessandro, president and CEO of the San Francisco Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria Partnership:
Resolution introduced at the US Conference of Mayors:
San Francisco Green Business Program:
San Francisco Convention & Visitors Bureau:

February 4, 2010 at 12:47 PM Leave a comment

Samsung Green Recycling Program Raises Funds for San Francisco Public Schools

Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd., a leader in consumer electronics and information technology, today announced the expansion of its corporate social responsibility program in the San Francisco Bay Area with the unveiling of a winter season green recycling program at ten K-12 schools in the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD).

The community program with the first event beginning on December 19, aims to broaden community awareness about responsible electronics recycling and promote environment protection consciousness, especially with SFUSD students and their parents. The electronics recycling program also invites neighborhood residents to drop off their used electronics on the assigned event date at one of the ten schools participating in the program and have them recycled for free.

Funds raised through Samsung’s recycling program will benefit participating schools by matching donated funds to the district’s Free and Reduced Lunch program, which serves more than 50 percent of the district’s 56,000 students. These funds will not only be used to help feed hungry students, but will also implement expanded lunch menu options such as salad bars, offering fresh, healthy produce.

Sims Recycling Solutions provides electronics recycling, precious metal refining, remarketing and asset management solutions tailored to the individual needs of its corporate clients. Their California facilities are authorized to handle SB 20/50 materials, and the company has a convenient eCycle Box designed specially for individuals and small businesses who want to responsibly recycle their electronics.

Sims Recycling Solutions’ event team will be at each school to provide a state-compliant facility for participants to drop off used electronics to be safely and securely shredded and recycled. Accepted items include: TVs, monitors, desktop and laptop computers, printers, keyboards, mice, radios, stereos, speakers, DVD and CD players, VCRs, MP3 players, PDAs and cell phones.

Samsung develops environmentally-friendly products with low energy consumption levels, and products that are manufactured without hazardous substances, in addition to green manufacturing processes and compliance with environmental regulations such as EU RoHS, China RoHS, EU REACH and Halogen-free material. With green initiatives that encompass all of its component products: memory, logic, storage drives and LCD panels, the company has developed innovative component technologies to significantly cut power requirements for computing platforms and a range of consumer devices.

“Through the recycling program, Samsung is pleased to provide San Francisco Bay Area residents an opportunity to unlock the value of their end-of-life electronics and recycle these devices through an environmentally friendly educational program that helps local schools,” said Ana Hunter, vice president, Samsung Semiconductor, Inc.

“This generous program comes at a time when school district budgets throughout the state are under enormous pressure and we are extremely grateful that Samsung and Sims Recycling Solutions seeks to support public education during this time of need while educating students on the benefits of electronics recycling,” said Carlos A. Garcia, Superintendent, San Francisco Unified School District.

The Samsung recycling events will take place on the following dates from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at these SFUSD locations:

  • December 19 – Daniel Webster Elementary School, 465 Missouri St.
  • January 9 – Marina Middle School, 3500 Fillmore St.
  • January 23 – Visitacion Middle School, 450 Raymond Ave.
  • January 30 – Longfellow Elementary School, 755 Morse St.
  • February 20 – Thurgood Marshall Academic High, 45 Conkling St.
  • February 27 – Woodside International, 1555 Irving St.
  • March 6 – Herbert Hoover Middle School, 2990 14th Ave.
  • March 13 – Newcomer High School, 1350 7th Ave.
  • March 20 – Sunset Elementary School, 1920 41st Ave.
  • March 27 – Cesar Chavez Elementary School, 825 Shotwell St.

In 2009, Samsung has safely recycled 10,334,749 pounds of electronics. Samsung only partners with respected take-back and recycling companies–such as Sims Recycling Solutions–that do not incinerate, send to solid waste landfill, or export toxic waste (defined in a manner consistent with the commonly accepted definition of hazardous electronic waste) to developing countries.

Additional information about Samsung’s environmentally-responsible activities can be found at

For more click HERE

December 14, 2009 at 10:26 AM Leave a comment

The Case Against Cigarette Butts

Turns out smoking is harmful for fish, too. Trout aren’t lighting up, but environmentalists say, marine life can be the victim when smokers thoughtlessly flick their butts to the ground.

During a public health meeting in Philadelphia this month, San Diego State Professor Thomas Novotny presented his case against cigarette butts.

Novotny: These things contain the chemicals that would classify them as a toxic, hazardous waste product and therefore subject them to much more strict regulation, restrictions and fines and other kinds of interventions that could hopefully reduce their impact on the environment.

Other experts are studying why smokers are so careless. Many think cigarette butts are biodegradable, but the filters are made of plastic and may take as long as a decade to decompose. Novotny wants smokers to pick up their tobacco litter, but one survey suggests smokers are unlikely to change their behavior. Others counter that people have learned to pick up after their dogs, and that waste is biodegradable.

Novotny says tobacco waste is more than an eyesore.

Novotny: It is the single most littered item in the world. Five point six trillion cigarettes are dumped in the environment somewhere every year, and they contain chemicals, heavy metals, nicotine, poisons; things that come into smokers lungs and cause disease that then go into the environment.

This year, San Francisco added a 20 cent fee to every pack of cigarettes sold in the city. Officials will use the money to offset the cost of litter clean up.

A health economist from New Jersey helped San Francisco officials figure out that their city spends about $6 million a year to clean up tobacco waste. John Schneider says indoor bans drove smokers outside, and now the streets, beaches and parks are littered with castoff cigarette butts.

Schneider: They’re toxic to pets, they’re toxic to children, they’re toxic to marine wildlife, and toxic probably to many other kinds of wildlife as well.

December 8, 2009 at 10:53 AM Leave a comment

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