What U.S. city composts the most waste?

Top Composting U.S. City

The Golden Gate Bridge is destined to become the landmark of a trash-free haven by 2020.
The Golden Gate Bridge is destined to become the landmark of a trash-free haven by 2020.
Jason Todd/The Image Bank/Getty Images

This city has the ambitious goal of keeping 75 percent of its trash out of landfills by the year 2010 -- and reaching the point of zero waste by 2020. So which city takes top honor home? Drumroll please … the top composting U.S. city is San Francisco! The city promotes composting by featuring the largest compost collection program in the United States [source: Mullane].

Just one of several environmentally-friendly initiatives, composting is an attractive way to reduce a city's waste because the byproduct can be valuable and useful. Hundreds of thousands of San Franciscans, as well as local restaurants and food-related establishments, contribute more than 300 tons of organic garbage each day -- that's more than 100,000 tons per year. This waste travels to nearby modern composting facilities for treatment [source: SFEnvironment]. Once that waste is turned into compost, agricultural operations such as local vineyards will pay big bucks for the nutrient-dense material.

But San Franciscans aren't stopping to revel in their victory yet. There are several objectives the city is trying to meet in order to stay on track for the 2010 goal and beyond. Issues such as increasing recycling during large, public events are part of the city's goals, along with promoting more reuse and less consumption. Community outreach is another big part of the city's efforts, with information campaigns to bring new Bay Area residents into the loop, as well as other unreached markets. The city's overall environmental plan, spearheaded by Mayor Gavin Newsom, includes many other facets. Grants, subsidies and other incentive programs are offered for green activities such as installing solar panels, planting trees, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and car sharing.

Now that we've learned about one city's efforts to change the way their citizens look at a garbage can, follow the links below to read about related information.

Related HowStuffWorks Articles

More Great Links


  • "Building a Bright Future: San Francisco's Environmental Plan 2008." SForward. http://www.sfenvironment.org/downloads/library/lisforward.pdf
  • "Composting." Environmental Protection Agency. 9/7/2007. (5/27/2008) http://www.epa.gov/epaoswer/non-hw/composting/basic.htm
  • "Compost Process." Jepson Prairie Organics. (5/27/2008) http://www.jepsonprairieorganics.com/compostprocess.htm
  • "Fact Sheet Food Waste Composting Program." Metro's Cedar Grove Composting Fact Sheet. 10/2007. (5/27/2008) http://www.portlandonline.com/shared/cfm/image.cfm?id=110948
  • Glascock, Bryan. "Request for Expression of Interest (RFI)." Organic Materials Composting and Management: City of Boston. (5/27/2008) http://www.cityofboston.gov/environmentalandenergy/pdfs/Reque_Express_of_Interest.pdf
  • Kilduff, Paul. "Want to compost but have no yard? Get a worm bin." San Francisco Chronicle. 7/20/2007. (5/27/2008) http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/07/20/BAGGNQVNN61.DTL&type=green
  • Mullane, Nancy. "San Francisco Compost a Hit with Local Vineyards." National Public Radio. 12/13/2006. (5/27/2008) http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=6619306
  • Nickisch, Curt. "Boston Wants to Harness Composting Energy." National Public Radio. 3/25/2008. (5/27/2008) http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=88163285
  • "Our city's programs: Composting." SFEnvironment. (5/27/2008) http://sfgov.org/site/frame.asp?u=http://www.sfenvironment.org
  • Reed, Robert. "New annex becomes green central in S.F." Norcal Waste Systems 3/22/2007. (5/27/2008) http://www.thegarbagepit.com/media_kit.php?kit=annex
  • Ryan, Andrew. "Urban decay, redefined." Boston Globe. 2/26/2008. (5/27/2008) http://www.boston.com/news/local/articles/2008/02/26/urban_decay_redefined/
  • "Strategic Plan 2007-2009." Department of Environment City and County of San Francisco. 12/4/2006. (5/27/2008)
  • Svoboda, Elizabeth et al. "America's 50 Greenest Cities." Popular Science. 2/28/2008. (5/27/2008) http://www.popsci.com/environment/article/2008-02/americas-50-greenest-cities?page=1#