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August 05, 2008

San Fran: The City With a Peculiar Fixation on Garbage

Ed Morrissey jokes that San Francisco residents might soon have to beware the garbage police.

Garbage collectors would inspect San Francisco residentsí trash to make sure pizza crusts arenít mixed in with chip bags or wine bottles under a proposal by Mayor Gavin Newsom.

And if residents or businesses donít separate the coffee grounds from the newspapers, they would face fines of up to $1,000 and eventually could have their garbage service stopped.

The plan to require proper sorting of refuse would be the nationís first mandatory recycling and composting law. It would direct garbage collectors to inspect the trash to make sure it is put into the right blue, black or green bin, according to a draft of the legislation prepared by the cityís Department of the Environment.

The proposal could be voted on by the city supervisors in the next month. Official enforcement will be by means of escalating fines for improperly sorted trash. Landlords concerned that they will be fined for the trash habits of their tenants were given this unhelpful response from San Francisco's Environment Department Director: "We won't enforce against owners of apartment buildings if their tenants don't do this." Very responsive, wasn't it.

This reminds me of the drama involved in garbage collection in Japan:

Enter the garbage guardians, the army of hawk-eyed volunteers across Japan who comb offending bags for, say, a telltale gas bill, then nudge the owner onto the right path.

One of the most tenacious around here is Mitsuharu Taniyama, 60, the owner of a small insurance business who drives around his ward every morning and evening, looking for missorted trash. He leaves notices at collection sites: "Mr. So-and-so, your practice of sorting out garbage is wrong. Please correct it."

"I checked inside bags and took especially lousy ones back to the owners' front doors," Mr. Taniyama said.

He stopped in front of one messy location where five bags were scattered about, and crows had picked out orange peels from one.

"This is a typical example of bad garbage," Mr. Taniyama said, with disgust. "The problem at this location is that there is no community leader. If there is no strong leader, there is chaos."

Go read the whole thing to really get the flavor of how crazy about garbage people can get. I imagine clear garbage bags will quickly be made mandatory in San Francisco, just as they were following Japan's green conversion.

More: Doubleplusundead writes that the UK is having similar trash issues.


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posted by Gabriel Malor at 03:22 PM

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