Home » Food Scrap Collection Programs » Case Study: Collecting Food Scraps in San Francisco High-Rise Buildings

Why do we need to collect organics and food scraps?

In the United States, over 31 percent of the trash that goes to landfills is compostable. This works out to roughly 133 billion pounds of food scraps and organics. When it comes to looking for ways to curb greenhouse gas emissions, diverting food scraps from urban centers to commercial compost facilities is a huge opportunity. Doing so yields massive benefits since compost is used to regenerate soil and sequester carbon from the atmosphere, reversing the effects of climate change and eliminating the need to use chemical fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, and animal growth hormones.

Diverting food from landfills in San Francisco

Most food scrap collection programs are shaped by the regulatory organic/food waste bans and investment in composting infrastructure. San Francisco is a progressive city when it comes to mandating recycling and composting initiatives, setting the nation’s first mandatory composting law in 2009. This was a bold initiative that meant over 800,000 residents and property managers had to get on board to divert food scraps from the trash to the compost bin. This was no small task as the solution had to be crafted in a way that would change social behaviour and change entrenched habits to support the process. The San Francisco program was recognized as a huge success and has served as a model for other cities across North America and around the world. Not resting on their laurels, the San Francisco (SFE) outreach team continue to tweak the system in an effort to improve resident participation and reduce the levels of contamination.

In 2014, SFE partnered with EcoSafe to trial our patented MultiRes® food scraps collection program.

The MultiRes® program is designed to focus first on the needs and concerns of the residents in an effort to change behavior and engrain new habits. The program provides residents with free compostable bags which are available to them through conveniently located bag dispensers supported with industry-leading signage and communication materials. An experienced consulting firm was hired to set up and manage the program in four multi-family high rise buildings with varying cultures and demographics. Each of the buildings had resident managers on site, and all but one of which were there for the duration of the trial.

MultiRes Resident Happily Diverts their Food Waste from Landfill

 What we heard from residents, property managers, and haulers

To understand the impact of this test, EcoSafe engaged a third-party research company to create and conduct a survey of the residents to keep track of participation and overall results from the haulers.  This was conducted throughout the course of the pilot as four buildings were chosen throughout San Francisco to ensure successful rollout of the food scraps collection program.

Based on a third-party survey, it was found that:

  • Recycling participation rates increased from less than 50% to more than 80% in all four buildings.
  • Contamination fell to less than 1% in three of the buildings and to 6% in the fourth building (where the manager resigned as the program was being launched).
  • Residents said informational flyers from building managers are most helpful.
  • Residents strongly preferred the EcoSafe MultiRes® program compared to previous food scrap collection approaches.
    • 89 percent of residents stated their satisfaction—nearly double the rate of the standard city organics collection program.
  • The compostable bags were viewed as a cost effective, easy to use, clean, and a strong component to the program compared to using food scrap containers without bags or bag dispensers.
  • Residents were happy that compostable bags were provided at a central location that provided a bulk purchase opportunity which is more economical than retail.


When asked about whether Alexa  Kielty, Senior Coordinator for the City of San Francisco Department of the Environment, would use EcoSafe for her organic diversion programs, Alexa responded:

“For high-rise buildings in San Francisco, compostable bags are critical to get full participation in the City’s composting program. The compostable bags serve as the best vehicle to get compostable material from residents’ apartments to the composting bin which typically is not available on the same floor. By implementing EcoSafe’s program, we have seen a decrease in contamination and particularly plastic bag contamination in the composting bin.” 


EcoSafe’s compostable bags, combined with the EcoSafe MultiRes® delivery program of support, educational materials, posters, bags, and dispensers enables multi-resident locations to do right by the planet, by their city by-laws, and by their residents. By introducing a system mindset of food scrap separation and collection, residents can become active and informed participants.

How can EcoSafe help you tackle your multi-residential building organic waste challenge?
Contact us today, we’re here to help!


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Food loss and waste occur at each stage of the supply chain. The biggest proportion (about 37%) happens in the home.

ReFED, 2021