From Green Right Now Reports

San Francisco knows how to not waste an opportunity. In case you missed the news, the Golden Gate city recently surpassed it’s goal of diverting 75 percent of its trash from the landfill by 2010. It’s already at 77 percent trash diversion by the city’s last estimation.

The side of a Recology truck makes the point that "Recycling changes everything." In San Francisco, it has dramatically changed how much trash goes to waste. (Photo: Recology)

That very likely makes San Francisco the continuing leader among U.S. cities for trash diversion. San Jose, Fresno, Long Beach, New York City and Portland are close behind. According to an independent ranking, those cities were all  diverting at least 60 percent of their waste in late 2007. San Francisco led the pack back then at 67 percent diversion.

City leaders say that San Francisco’s continued aggressive trash reduction coupled with high recycling rates is generating jobs in the recycling field.

“San Francisco is showing once again that doing good for our environment also means doing right by our economy and local job creation,” said Mayor Gavin Newsom in a statement. “For a growing number of people, recycling provides the dignity of a paycheck in tough economic times. The recycling industry trains and employs men and women in local environmental work that can’t be outsourced and sent overseas, creating ten times as many jobs as sending material to landfills.”

Gavin pointed to Recology, the city’s main recycling vendor, which employs more than 1,000 people in San Francisco.

The municipal Environment Department made the  determination that the city had surpassed its diversion goal based on 2008 figures showing San Francisco diverted more than 1.6 million tons of material. The city characterized that amount as twice the weight of the Golden Gate Bridge.

In the absence of an updated list of all U.S. cities’ diversion rates, Mayor Newsom declared San Francisco the record holder in an Aug. 27 announcement.

Residents have accomplished this mountainous task through active recycling, composting and reuse.

What’s next for the city that’s trying so hard not to live sustainably? Zero waste by 2020 is the goal. Environment Director Melanie Nutter admits that it might be difficult to reach the summit, without some changes in the world outside the Bay Area.

“If we captured everything going to landfill that can be recycled or composted in our programs, we’d have a 90 percent recycling rate, but we will need to work on the state and federal level to require that packaging and products are manufactured with minimal waste and maximum recyclability,” Nutter said.

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