Catalyzing Investment in Urban Sustainability
U.S.-Brazil Joint Initiative on
Urban Sustainability


Zero Waste Program

Project Overview

San Francisco (SF) has a goal of zero waste by 2020. In one key way to achieve this goal, the City implemented a project designed to promote the culture of "Recycling Changes Everything." To help achieve this goal, the project included a number of initiatives to improve recycling rates. With an ultimate goal of zero waste, SF recognized that the City needed increased producer and consumer responsibility through mechanisms such as more stringent legislation. Ordinances were put into effect to ensure overall participation. For example, SF has required mandatory three-stream source separation and recycling of wastes, created "pay as you throw" trash metering incentives for businesses that reduce waste, banned use of non-recyclable or non-compostable containers by food service vendors and restaurants, eliminated stores' use of plastic bags, mandated the recycling of construction and demolition debris, established green building standards for new construction, taken steps to ensure that recycling plans be in place for all special events, and required green purchasing requirements for city government. SF uses specialized trucks, some with 3D images of food waste or recyclables displayed on their sides, which give the illusion of glass panels that reveal the vehicles' contents rather than plain "garbage trucks." The mandatory recycling and composting ordinance requires residential and commercial source separation.

Assistance is provided through free consultation, container labels, signage, educational materials, tenant outreach, and other assistance to help make recycling and composting a success in any building and any event. In addition, construction and demolition (C&D) debris must be recycled.

The C&D ordinance affects all construction projects, such as new construction, remodels, and partial demolitions, and requires the building permit holder or the property owner to use only city-registered haulers, who have to make sure that all C&D materials removed from the project are properly recycled. This ordinance prohibits any C&D materials from being placed in the trash or sent to a landfill.

Contact Information
Robert Haley
Zero Waste Program Manager, City of San Francisco
Phone: +1 (415) 355-3752

Jack Macy
Commercial Zero Waste Coordinator, City of San Francisco
Phone: +1 (415) 355-3751
Enviromental, Social, and Economic Benefits
Rate of 78 percent recycling achieved.
Landfill disposal is at its lowest level in decades.
300 tons/day of food scraps collected-largest urban food scraps composting program in the U.S.
100 million fewer plastic bags are used per year.
Financial incentives for both waste generators and service providers to recycle, compost more.