News Release
Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2009

Huge emissions savings, other environmental benefits achieved through urban compost collection program
Growers ask people in cities to send food scraps from holiday meals back to farms

SAN FRANCISCO (Ferry Plaza Farmers' Market): Officials and local farmers announced today that city 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:
  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. Created a total C02E 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.
These numbers are based on a current, approved protocol set by the Climate Action Reserve. Jared Blumenfeld, Director of San Francisco's Department of the Environment, and Obama appointee to head US EPA Region 9, said "The reduction in air emissions achieved through the compost program represents real progress and tell us two things. We should compost all our food scraps, and this program should be replicated in many other cities. That would go a long, long way to reducing greenhouse gases."

In addition to reducing air emissions, by placing food scraps in compost collection carts San Francisco residents and businesses help local farms improve soil health and structure, increase drought resistance, and reduce and even eliminate the need for supplemental water, fertilizers, and pesticides.

Local farmers today called on city residents and businesses to increase their participation in the urban compost program by placing all food scraps from holiday meals in green carts for curbside collection.

"Local farms feed our cities. Now we are asking people in cities to send all their kitchen peelings and other food scraps back to the farm," agronomist Bob Shaffer, a soil expert and consultant to dozens of Northern California vineyards, said at a news conference at the Ferry Plaza Farmers' Market.

"We know from experience and from new scientific data that applying compost made from food scraps to the land is exceptionally beneficial to sustainable farming and, therefore, beneficial to everyone's health," Shaffer said.

San Francisco is striving to achieve two goals: 1) divert 75 percent of waste from landfill disposal by 2010; and 2) achieve zero waste by 2020. This year the Board of Supervisors approved Mayor Gavin Newsom's call to make recycling and composting mandatory at all properties in the city. That law took effect on Oct. 21.

Recology, San Francisco's recycling company, announced today that city residents and businesses have placed more than 620,000 tons of compostable material, mostly food scraps, in green carts since the compost collection program started in 1996. While our city is doing a good job of recycling and composting, about 190,000 additional tons of food waste could still be captured and composted each year.

"We should never throw peelings, leftovers, coffee grounds, or anything else we can compost in the trash. Instead place all materials that can be composted in a green collection cart; that is a direct and highly effective way to help protect the environment," said Mike Sangiacomo, Recology CEO.

Approximately 300 cities and universities have started collecting food scraps for composting. The potential to further reduce greenhouse gas emissions by continuing to replicate the San Francisco program is tremendous. Last year, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, some 32 million tons of food was thrown into landfills or incinerators, contributing mightily to greenhouse gas emissions.

By using improved systems, modern compost facilities limit and reduce air emissions and aim to preserve as much carbon in the finished compost as possible. Vineyards in Northern California that apply compost made from food scraps collected in San Francisco now use the soil amendment specifically to grow cover crops such as mustard and beans to pull carbon out of the atmosphere and sequester it deep in the soil. "This helps turn farms into carbon sinks," Shaffer said.

Every year Kathleen Inman, owner and winemaker at Inman Family Wines, spreads about 350 cubic yards of compost made from 140,000 pounds of table scraps on her organically farmed Pinot Noir at Olivet Grange Vineyard in Russian River Valley.

"I am a huge fan of composting. Although I compost at home, I could never produce enough for my needs as a farmer," Inman said. "I am so grateful that San Francisco residents are adding their food scraps to those of the restaurants.

"Composting is one of the easiest ways for individuals to contribute to a reduction in greenhouse gases. Please add your scraps to your green bin rather than the garbage bin or down the garbage disposal this holiday season. By composting you will contribute to the 2010 vintage of Inman Family Pinot Noir and help reduce emissions."

More than 200 vineyards and farms in Northern California have applied compost made from food scraps collected in San Francisco.

Linda Hale, Chief of Daily Operations for Madrone Vineyard Management in Sonoma, affirmed local vineyard managers have embraced the food-scraps-to-fine-wines philosophy. Madrone uses compost made from food scraps to grow grapes sold to Clarbec, BR Cohn, Benziger, Imagery, Sebastiani, and Eric Ross wineries.

"We have not only increased production, but quality and health of the vines has been very evident," Hale said. "The fact that everyday food scraps and yard waste from urban areas can be turned into compost that we are able to use in the vineyard and on our farms helps us to be better stewards of the land."

Media Contacts:
Robert Reed, Sunset Scavenger, rreed@recology.com cell (415) 606-9183
Adam Alberti, Singer Associates, adam@singersf.com cell (415) 225-2443