In recent years, the mills and foundries that receive recyclables from Recology have stopped accepting bales of material with more than 1% impurities, so the sorting facility at Pier 96 must work to a very high standard. Through a recent tour of the sorting center, “Civic” reported on what happens when things that cannot be recycled end up there, and what should be done about material that is difficult to recycle, like plastic bags.
Identifying clear guidelines for the level of exposure to glyphosate that could cause cancer or other illness is a contentious business. Monsanto owner Bayer denies glyphosate, the active ingredient in weedkiller Roundup, is a carcinogen. The European Union and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency back that view. That’s despite a finding from the World Health Organization in 2015 that glyphosate probably is a human carcinogen.
When San Franciscans hike up Twin Peaks or stroll through Glen Canyon Park, they could be exposing themselves to an herbicide that some studies have linked to cancer. But thanks to growing concerns about public health and liability, their risks are substantially lower than they were five years ago, when the city used 20 times as much of the chemical.
That chemical is glyphosate, the key ingredient in Monsanto’s top-selling weedkiller, Roundup. Monsanto owner Bayer agreed in June to a settlement of more than $10 billion with plaintiffs in thousands of pending lawsuits over claims Roundup caused cancer.
As legal victories against the company pile up, Bay Area cities have faced a tough choice — keep using a chemical that evidence increasingly shows is dangerous and exposes them to the legal liability it entails or switch to other, often less effective methods. San Francisco has limited its risk through a strategy known as integrated pest management and its move to scale back dramatically on glyphosate since 2015.
A recent investigation into what happens to San Francisco’s recycling brought largely positive news: 81 percent of what residents deposit into their blue bins is recycled. That rate is among the highest in the nation. But the bigger picture of waste disposal in San Francisco is not so rosy. The city is far from reaching its ultimate goal of zero waste — and officials say it may never get there if manufacturers don’t change their ways.
Bay Area political leaders are throwing cold water on a controversial work-from-home rule proposed by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission as part of a regional climate change plan. The proposed mandate, part of a long-term sustainability initiative called Plan Bay Area 2050, would require the majority of office workplaces to ensure 60% of their employees are working from home on any given day.
Tens of thousands of people are facing evacuation orders and threats to their safety as fires continue to blaze across the Western United States. These disastrous fires are one of the effects of climate change that scientists predicted, said climate activist Laura Neish, executive director of 350 Bay Area and 350 Bay Area Action.
The Bayview has the city’s attention – for better or for worse, depending on whom you ask. If voters approve a $487 million open-space bond measure in November, it will help fund a park at 900 Innes Ave., the first waterfront land the city’s Department of Recreation and Parks has ever owned. Yet, despite efforts to include the local community in the planning and the benefits, many are skeptical.
Community-centered approaches are key to Oakland’s Equitable Climate Action Plan, approved unanimously by the City Council in July. It is designed to “bring about a just transition to a low carbon future” with green jobs and measures to mitigate the disparities felt by communities affected by climate change, according to a statement by Mayor Libby Schaaf.
But the plan doesn’t have guaranteed funding from the city government. For organizers, that’s a problem. “We need money to pay people to do work,” said Phoenix Armenta, who works with an environmental justice group.
Limits on construction activity were lifted May 17 as California reopened. Reopening presaged a summer-long spike in COVID-19 cases. As the pandemic continues through wildfire season, and San Franciscans breathe in pollution from the fires’ miles-wide blankets of smoke, public health experts and researchers contacted for this article agree that human-created sources of pollution should be limited or eliminated.
City officials advised San Francisco residents to stay indoors wherever possible with the windows shut to protect against smoke from wildfires that has blanketed the region. On Wednesday afternoon, air quality was designated as unhealthy, though it has fluctuated. If smoke pollution deteriorates air quality to “very unhealthy,” the city will open respite centers, officials said in a press conference.
San Francisco may be edging closer to its climate goals with an ordinance requiring all new construction to use electric power rather than gas. But the next step down that road involves retrofitting old buildings — and it could add costs low-income residents can’t afford.