Circular Economy

Resource recovery program for regenerative, local agriculture and climate protection

Project Facts

United States
San Francisco, California

Project Volume
>250 Mio. EUR

Applied Financing Solutions

Project Dates
Start: 1996
In operation since/from: 1996

The Story

Landfilled organic waste is one of the largest sources of methane pollution in California. That´s why Recology started a program to collect and to compost food scraps in San Francisco. The program reduces greenhouse gas emissions from landfills and compost switches on soil organisms in topsoil, allowing farms to grow mustard and other cover crops that pull carbon from the atmosphere and sequester carbon deep in the soil. Compost is a natural sponge that attracts and retains water, keeping soil moist and plants green which reduces risk of wildfires.

This kind of regenerative agriculture — farming practices that rebuild topsoil, increase biodiversity, improve the water cycle, and enhance carbon sequestration — is gaining new attention and closes natural cycles. Leaves fall around the base of a tree, decompost, and feed microorganisms in the soil. Microorganisms help make nutrients available to the roots of the tree.

San Francisco's food scrap collection program replicates this natural loop. The program collects food scraps - coffee grounds, egg shells, vegetable peelings, fish bones, and the like - separately from other trash and turns them into high-quality compost used for local agriculture. San Francisco pioneered the urban collection of food scraps for composting in 1996 as a test project.

The project has diverted 2.5 million tons of compostable material from landfill disposal thereby significantly reducing landfill emissions of methane and other greenhouse gases. Meanwhile Recology has over 45 operating companies that provide integrated services to more than 889,000 residential customers and 112,000 commercial customers in California, Oregon, and Washington.

Success Factor | Hero Moment

The most decisive factor for the success of this project includes the participation of all properties in San Francisco and the numerous and significant environmental and economic benefits achieved. San Francisco has reinvented the way it manages trash, and the environmental benefits, particularly the climate benefits.

Recology expanded its program to other cities including Portland and Seattle. Delegations from more than 130 countries have visited the project and considered replicating it in their own cities. Paris and New York City, have started following the lead.

Recology, San Francisco's resource recovery company, United States

Other Involved Stakeholders
More than 300 vineyards and orchards in Northern California

Contact Mail


Agriculture, Waste Management

Terminated Emissions
423.000 tons CO2e per year

Comparable to the annual CO2 absorption of
3.384.000 trees