San Francisco promises that by 2020, no garbage will end up in a landfill. But is that really possible?
Asked for his reaction to Krausz's thesis that the Zero Waste program won't ever actually get to zero, Guisti turned the question around by asking, what's the harm in trying? "Let's say you said, zero waste is unattainable," he said. "Then what's the number? I think zero waste is an ambitious goal — but if we get to 90 or 95 percent, what a tremendous achievement." Setting the highest of bars is important, he said, because striving for it provides the motivation to keep diverting waste from the landfill.
In order to actually reduce the city's garbage from 446,685 tons to zero in the next seven years, Zero Waste program partners Recology and San Francisco's Department of the Environment face a twofold challenge. First, they must prevent compostable and recyclable material from getting into the landfill pile. Second, they must find solutions for diverting the waste that currently has nowhere else to go but the landfill. With a combination of seeking new markets for recyclables, using technology that can sort out the recyclable and compostable matter, and implementing incentives and educational outreach programs, they're still focused on the goal. "It's hard to tell how close we'll get to zero in 2020," Macy said. So even if zero waste does not actually mean zero waste in the end, that goal "sends a message that we want to move toward being as sustainable as we can."