San Francisco Zero Waste Rates

Together, Recology and the City have recovered more material for recycling and composting than we have sent to landfill. Although the City continues to make great strides towards zero waste, approximately 1,100 tons of unprocessed material is sent to the landfill every day.  Much of this material has the potential to be diverted from the landfill and put to better use.

Recology recently submitted a 2017 Refuse Rate Application that outlines a number of necessary changes to our services and material processing infrastructure. To meet California and City recycling and composting mandates, as well as help the City meet its zero waste by 2020 goal, Recology is proposing a rate increase based on the factors outlined below.

Understanding Composting, Recycling, and Trash Rates

The 2017 Refuse Rate Application to upgrade San Francisco’s 16-year-old recycling and composting collections seeks funding for key programs including:

      • New wing on transfer station to receive compostable material
      • Redesigned routes including re-purposed and new trucks, and new sized trash and recycling bins
      • New 5-year labor agreement
      • Increased landfill disposal costs

Today, the typical single-family household in San Francisco pays $35.18 a month for weekly collection of three 32-gallon bins – trash, recycling, and compost. This monthly service fee also pays for a host of other collection and disposal services, including bulky item collection and the Household Hazardous Waste Program.

Residential Monthly Collection Rates by City
  City   Residential Rate  Change Date
  Piedmont   $54.49   July 1
  Albany   $41.31   —
  Mill Valley   $41.23   July 1
  Oakland   $41.04   July 1
  Larkspur   $39.35   July 1
  Berkeley   $39.19   July 1
  Sausalito   $39.03   —
  Alameda   $38.68   July 1
  San Jose   $36.83   July 1
  Hercules   $35.62   —
  San Francisco
  $35.18   July 1
  Richmond   $34.35   —
  Hayward   $31.62   March 1
View background information
about proposed rates.

The proposal asks the City to approve the following rate increase schedule for standard residential service:

Date:               Increase:       Monthly rate:
7.1.17               $5.70              $40.88
7.1.18               $1.80              $42.68
7.1.19               $0.00              $42.68
7.1.20               $0.27              $42.95

The proposal also seeks cost of living adjustments directly related to providing trash services based on a City-approved formula.

Recology submitted a draft proposal to the City in December 2016. The formal proposal is now before the SF Public Works, which will hold public hearings in March/April 2017. The SF Rate Payer Advocate and company representatives are attending community meetings to discuss the proposal, including facility and service improvements.

See How Rates Might Change

San Franciscans are recycling and composting more than ever before. To accommodate more recyclable material, and encourage less landfill material, we are proposing a default service that includes a 32-gallon composting bin, 64-gallon recycling bin, and a 16-gallon landfill bin.

Customers will still have the option to customize service levels and container sizes if the default services are not fitting for the household. They may opt out of the larger default recycling container and retain their existing 32-gallon container. They may also increase or decrease your compost and recycling container sizes to 96 gallon, 64 gallon, or 32 gallons.

Current Default Services
Current Default Services
w/ Proposed Rates
32 Gallon
32 Gallon
32 Gallon
32 Gallon
32 Gallon
32 Gallon
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New Default Services
w/ Proposed Rates
32 Gallon
64 Gallon
16 Gallon
8446528438_1cbf6a2eb8_m 8446517132_4c343657af_m 8446511098_0db6950767_m


The City regulates the refuse (trash, recycling, and composting) collection system. Recology, an employee-owned company, provides the collection service. Properties pay a monthly bill for the collection services they use.

Rate setting is a thorough and public process in San Francisco. People can:

  1. Ask questions of the City and Recology
  2. Attend and comment at public hearings held the Director of SF Public Works
  3. Give input to the Ratepayer Advocate

A typical single-family home in S.F. currently pays $35.18 per month. That price pays for Recology to empty all three bins – blue for recycling, green for compost, and black for trash. At residential properties Recology empties all three bins once a week.

The trash system in San Francisco includes several other services at no additional charge. Those services include:

      • Bulky Item Recycling
      • Community Clean Team Events
      • Household Hazardous Waste Services
      • Abandoned Waste Collection Services.
      • Public litter can collection

All of these services are undertaken to keep our city clean and increase recycling. What about household battery recycling?

  • $5.70 effective July 1, 2017
  • $1.80 effective July 1, 2018
  • $0.00 effective July 1, 2019
  • $0.27 effective July 1, 2020
  • The City looks at the complete rate proposal, including funding needed to continue existing programs and projects costs for options to improve services and necessary equipment and facilities. In considering these issues, City regulators look at historic costs and revenues and projected estimates for numerous factors such as: facility maintenance and improvements, labor, trucks, recycling equipment, bins, transportation expenses, fuel, insurance, revenue from the sale of recyclables, and more.
    • New wing on transfer station to receive compostable material
    • Redesigned routes including re-purposed and new trucks, and new sized trash and recycling bins
    • New 5-year labor agreement
    • Increased landfill disposal costs
  • Similar increases are proposed for apartment buildings; however, they can mitigate most of these impacts by recycling and composting more of their waste and thereby reducing landfill disposal. Recology will host workshops to help apartment building owners and managers explore different service scenarios and potential savings.
  • Click here to view detailed information concerning the rate proposal as it specifically relates to apartment buildings.
  • Commercial rates, on average, will adjust by the same percentage as residential rates; however, monthly collection rates for individual commercial customers will vary depending on that customer’s site-specific diversion rate. Commercial properties can quality for diversion discounts by recycling and composting more of their discards and thereby reducing the amount of trash they send to landfill disposal. Our Zero Waste Commercial Team is available to help businesses explore options.
  • To learn about ways to increase recycling and reduce disposal commercial customers can request a free waste audit by utilizing the “Contact us” form at Commercial customers who would prefer to speak with a zero waste specialist on the phone can call our Customer Service Department at 415-330-1300 and ask to be connected with a member of our Commercial Zero Waste Team.
  • San Francisco is doing a good job of recycling, but San Francisco residents and businesses still send 1,100 tons of garbage to the landfill every day. How much is 1,100 tons? That fills about 45 big semi-trucks (18-wheelers). That’s equal to more than 120 garbage trucks full. Day after day.
  • More than half of that material could instead be recycled or composted and should go in the blue and green bins. We cannot continue to bury 1,100 tons a day in the landfill. Why can’t we? One reason is that the Board of Supervisors set a goal of achieving zero waste, which means sending nothing to landfills and incinerators. Another reason is that landfills emit methane gas, which the US EPA says is 23 times worse as a greenhouse gas than what comes out of your car.
  • San Francisco has always set fair and reasonable rates and will do so again. The rate-setting process in San Francisco is one of the most complete, thorough, and transparent rate-setting procedures in the country. It includes public workshops, public hearings, an independent rate payer advocate, and an independent rate board which includes the City administrator, the City controller, and the general manager of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission.
  • The process also includes a draft application, thorough review by the City, a formal application, and a second round of review featuring question-and-answer sessions in public meetings.
  • The thorough and transparent rate-setting process ensures rates are fair and reasonable. San Francisco enjoys competitive rates and more services than other communities. That spells value for San Franciscans and a program that other communities look to as a model for the nation.
  • Part of the rate increase is associated with new programs the City wants Recology to provide. These programs include trash sorting and processing, abandoned waste collection, increased service of public litter cans, and additional outreach and education to help people better understand how recycling and composting aid in protecting the environment.
  • The City is growing. More residents mean more discards in total and a need to educate new people how to participate in our City’s recycling and composting collection programs.
  • With the growth of smart phones and the associated increase in online shopping, San Francisco’s waste stream now has far more medium-sized cardboard boxes. We need improved trucks and recycling systems to collect and recycle the additional boxes.
  • To accommodate other changes and further increase recycling, we also propose to re-purpose our split collection trucks and redesign many collection routes.

See Where Funds Will be Invested

Zero Waste Tech Improvements

Enhanced Collection Services

Investment in Our People

The Tunnel Avenue facility will undergo a number of facility and operational improvements, including increased capacity and efficiency of the transfer of organics, continued pilot programs that aim to sort and divert current landfill bound material, and the installation of an air purification system to reduce odor impacts on the surrounding community. Single family homes will be encouraged to dispose of less trash through a smaller, 16-gallon landfill bin, while increasing the level of their recycling and composting service.  Similar service level adjustments will be available for multi-family and commercial customers. These adjustments will encourage the increased use of recycling and composting bins, versus the trash. Our drivers, sorters, dispatchers, and safety managers are the heartbeat of our day-to-day operations. We are lucky to employ very talented and specialized people who have lived and worked in San Francisco for decades. To provide consistent, excellent customer service, we first want to take care of our employees by providing competitive pay and benefits.

The Rate Making Process

Ratepayer Advocate
Public Works has appointed a non-affiliated advocate to represent residents and businesses throughout the rate making process. The rate payer advocate is responsible for ensuring that the public knows and understands how to participate in the process through a series of public meetings. The rate payer advocate also serves as the public’s contact person, and is available to answer questions and provide detailed information about the proposed rate structure.

Contact the Ratepayer Advocate:
(415) 324 8477

Public Workshops and Hearings
There will be several workshops and public hearings to allow residents and businesses to learn more about the rate process and provide feedback. Please check back frequently to view dates.

  Date   Event Name   Location   Time
  Tuesday, February 28   Technical Workshop   City Hall, Room 421   4:00 pm – 6:00 pm
  Wednesday, March 8   Director’s Hearing   City Hall, Room 400   8:00 am – 12:00 pm
  Wednesday, March 15   Director’s Hearing   City Hall, Room 400   8:00 am – 11:00 am
  *Wednesday, March 22   Director’s Hearing   City Hall, Room 416   8:00 am – 12:00 pm
  *Monday, March 27   Director’s Hearing   City Hall, Room 400   8:00 am – 12:00 pm
  Monday, April 17   Director’s Hearing   City Hall, Room 416   1:00 pm– 5:00 pm
  Wednesday, April 19   Director’s Hearing   City Hall, Room 400   8:00 am – 11:00 am
  *Wednesday, April 26   Director’s Hearing   City Hall, Room 400   8:00 am – 12:00 pm
  *Wednesday, May 3   Prop 218 Hearing   City Hall, Room 400   8:00 am – 11:00 am

*Meeting time and day are reserved should there be a need to extend hearings

Additional Resources