Overall, the Boston mayoral candidates agree with the city’s goal to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Several have mentioned that they want to see improvement in Boston’s recycling rate, which, at 20 percent, is 10 percent lower than the national average. But to match recycling rates of 80 percent in San Francisco, 65 percent in Los Angeles, or 55.7 percent in Seattle (a city comparable to our own size), we need to go a lot further than the suggestion of John Connolly and Felix Arroyo to add more recycling bins on streets and in parks or Charlotte Golar Richie’s idea of recycling competitions.
San Francisco’s high rate of diversion of waste from landfills is partly because the city has been collecting organic waste at curbside along with regular recycling since 1996. Organic waste, which includes food scraps, yard clippings, pizza boxes, paper, and paperboard, comprises 56 percent of the waste stream nationally. Once buried in a landfill, it produces methane — a greenhouse gas that is 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide, even though it stays in the atmosphere a shorter time. Food waste in Boston comprises 20 to 25 percent of the current waste stream (not including paper and paperboard), so recycling it would put us in line with other leading cities.