San Francisco Bay Chapter Sierra Club

Separating compostables is easy, neat, and effective.

Oakland Council advances composting

Will Oakland’s new “Zero Waste” system include compost containers for residents of apartments and other multi-unit buildings? Buildings of five or more units comprise almost 40% of Oakland’s residential units.

On June 18, 2013, the Oakland City Council took a key vote, instructing city staff to come back with a cost estimate for providing collection services for food scraps and compostable paper (e.g. pizza boxes, paper napkins, paper plates) for all city residents, including apartments and other multi-unit buildings, in the final negotiations on the city's recycling, compost, and trash-collection contract.

Providing compost (food scrap) collection is an important step towards the city’s goal of Zero Waste. No longer will valuable organics-rich materials be mixed in with the refuse going to landfill, and workers won't have to perform the inefficient and dangerous work of trying to separate out some of the compostable materials. (Such materials separated at the dump produce contaminated compost that can't be used for farms and food crops.)

This decision would also make apartment-dwellers full participants in the city's Zero Waste efforts rather than excluding them from the city’s comprehensive recycling programs. Students who live in apartment buildings will learn how to properly recycle and compost, as they are expected to do in the Oakland schools, and the city will gain the opportunity for real change in the culture of wasting.


The final contract will come back to the Council for a vote, likely some time in 2015. At that time it will be important to make sure that full implementation of citywide compost service is included for all residences. So far the city has merely asked for a cost estimate; food-scrap collection service at no extra charge will only become a reality if city residents insist on it.

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The Sierra Club is teaming up with the East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union to advocate for a robust Zero Waste collection strategy and for livable wages for recycling and reclamation workers to help us meet our Zero Waste goals. To join in our campaign, contact Jess Dervin-Ackerman at or (510)848-0800, ext. 304.