School Children Promote Composting Through Art

(January 26, 2011)

San Francisco--Speaker Pro Tempore Fiona Ma announced the winner of the SF Environment Compost Poster contest in front of an assembly of students at E.R. Taylor Elementary School in the Portola District.  Speaker Pro Tempore Fiona Ma, Supervisor Malia Cohen and other notables such as Melanie Nutter, Director of San Francisco Department of the Environment and "Phoebe the Phoenix" were on hand to congratulate Andy Xie, a 2nd grader at ER Taylor Elementary School who created the winning artwork featured in the poster. 


Andy Xie lives in San Francisco with his family. He is a dedicated student and avid composter and recycler. He is always one of the first to compost and recycle by putting items in the green and blue bins during class activities and at lunch. His artwork will appear on posters promoting composting in San Francisco.  Both Andy Xie and his after-school teacher Keleigh Hansen, who helped students submit entries to this contest, received cash prizes and congratulations from political and school leaders.


"Young people like Andy Xie and all the students who participated in this contest have the power to change the world," said Speaker Pro Tempore Ma.  "This program highlights how far we have come as a community, and the commitment of the City's Department of the Environment to reach out and teach the next generation of San Franciscans the values of environmental stewardship and protecting nature." 


Children from five elementary schools participated in the art contest, with winners selected from each school. They were asked to create drawings illustrating how putting food and soiled paper into the green bin is good for our planet because it all gets turned into compost  for local farms. The winning art is featured on tri-lingual posters that will be distributed to students after the winner is announced at each of the participating schools.  Phoebe the Phoenix, the 'magical bird in our city seal' who appears at all school composting assemblies, was on hand to remind attendees that they have the power to transform "our home, our city, and our planet."  It was an exciting event for the students and staff. 


New Supervisor Malia Cohen added,  "I'm proud that a student from ER Taylor Elementary School has won this contest right here in District 10's diverse and vibrant Portola neighborhood." 


San Francisco has created the nation's first large scale curbside collection program for composting food scraps and soiled paper. Today, hundreds of thousands of residents and more than 3,000 restaurants and other businesses send over 400 tons of food scraps and other compostable materials each day to Recology's composting facility near Vacaville. Food scraps, soiled paper, plant material and other compostables are turned into a nutrient-rich soil amendment, or compost, that is used locally to produce wine and food that ends up served in Bay Area homes and restaurants and is sold at local Farmer's Markets. Compostable food and paper products still make up more than 36 percent of the material that San Francisco sends to landfill. San Francisco's goal is to divert even more compostable material from the landfill.


Melanie Nutter, Director of San Francisco's Department of the Environment, was on hand to talk about the program: "Composting is now mandatory for everyone in San Francisco, which is why we have a host of outreach materials in San Francisco's three predominant languages -- English, Chinese and Spanish. We are committed to helping everyone in San Francisco get the information they need to follow the law by composting and recycling correctly." When residents call Recology, San Francisco's recycling company at 330-1300, or the City's information number at 3-1-1, they can be assisted in a number of languages.


Nik Kaestner, San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) Director of Sustainability, highlights the ease of following the new recycling law:  "The future of our community and environment is in the hands of today's youngest citizens.  They are far ahead of any other generation in terms of environmental awareness and conservation, and the CIty of San Francisco and Recology have really helped us make our school program a success."


San Francisco's mandatory recycling and composting ordinance went into effect in October of 2009. The City has seen a 50% increase in composting from 400 tons per day to over 600 tons per day since the ordinance went into effect. The number of businesses composting has increased by 75% and the number of apartment buildings composting has more than tripled since that time. The mandatory recycling law is part of the City of San Francisco's broader goal of moving the City towards Zero Waste by 2020.