Composting becomes the law in San Francisco

San Francisco, renowned for its civic will to save the planet, is now ordering residents and businesses to compost food scraps and biodegradables, or risk fines for not properly sorting their garbage.

That's welcome news for Jepson Prairie Organics, a Dixon-based composting firm that already accepts delivery of 400 tons a day in plate scrapings, greasy cardboard and other sweet-stinking waste from San Francisco eateries and homes.

It's also uplifting for Kathleen Inman, who uses the finished product to cultivate her pinot noir vines at Inman Family Wines in Sonoma County's Russian River Valley.

For some 200 Northern California vineyards that use it, there is something about San Francisco compost and its unique, urban blend of crab shells from Fisherman's Wharf, pasta from North Beach, pupusas from the Mission District and dim sum from Chinatown that nourishes the soil like little else.

Yet the question for San Francisco is whether the new city composting law signed by Mayor Gavin Newsom last month will nourish the city's ecological soul or merely irritate the populace.

The new law gives the city authority to fine residents and small businesses $100 – and impose penalties up to $1,000 on big firms and apartment owners – if they refuse to segregate leftover fish bones, watermelon rinds and watercress salad into compost bins.

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