Policy Committee‎ > ‎2007 Meetings‎ > ‎

05.07 Approved Minutes







Monday, May 7, 2007, 5:00 P.M.

City Hall, Room 408

One Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place

San Francisco, CA 94102


*The Monday, May 14, 2007, 5:00 p.m. Policy Committee Meeting was rescheduled to Monday, May 7, 2007 at 5:00 p.m.


COMMITTEE MEMBERS:  Commissioners Johanna Wald (Chair); Ruth Gravanis and Angelo King


Commission Secretary:  Monica Fish




1.      CALL TO ORDER AND ROLL CALL.  The Commission on the Environment’s Policy Committee meeting was called to order at 5:12 p.m.  Present:  Chair Wald and Commissioner Gravanis (Excused:  Commissioner King).


2.      ACTION:  Adoption of Minutes of the March 12, 2007 Policy Committee Regular Meeting. Upon Motion by Commissioner Gravanis and second by Chair Wald, the March 12, 2007 Policy Committee Meeting Minutes were approved without objection (Absent:  Commissioner King).  (Explanatory Document:  Approved Minutes of the March 12, 2007 Policy Committee Regular Meeting.)


3.      PUBLIC COMMENTS:  Members of the public may address the Committee on matters that are within the Committee’s jurisdiction and are not on today’s agenda.  There was no public comment at this time.


4.      INFORMATIONAL PRESENTATION:  Plastic Bottled Water Recycling and Production and Water Quality in San Francisco.  The Committee will hear about the challenges involved in recycling plastic water bottles, the impact of plastic water bottle production, and water quality in San Francisco.

SPONSORS:  Commissioner Johanna Wald and Director Jared Blumenfeld

Ms. Bridgett Luther, Director, California Department of Conservation gave an informational presentation about plastic water bottle recycling in California.  Ms. Luther explained that California state government has two departments working on recycling--one is the Integrated Waste Management Board that is responsible for all of the oil, tire, and e-waste, and the other is the Department of Conservation that is responsible for beverage container recycling.  It was stated that the Department of Conservation is a resources agency that manages recycled material as a resource to the environment. 

Ms. Luther reported on the following topics:

The state’s goal is to try to reach 80% beverage container recycling, but has been unsuccessful because of an increasingly high amount of single-serving consumer containers that are being used throughout the United States.  The program started 20 years ago when the bottle bill was enacted (in 1986) with an effort to recycle a billion containers in the state of California.  Last year, the number grew to 20 billion containers.  California’s population in 1986 was 25 million, and last year it was 35 million, so the number of containers grew expeditiously to the number of people.  Ms. Luther explained that 25% more containers were recycled than before, but the recycling rate went down because of the increase in population and containers.  In 1993, PET, which most bottles are made out of made up 9% of all beverage containers; in 2004 it was 25%.  In California, PET sales have risen from 577 million to 7.8 billion in 2006.  Nationally, the sales of single-serve bottled water increased from 7 billion in 1999 to 26 billion in 2006.

Efforts have been made to influence people to start recycling more and use fewer single-serve containers to reach goals.  It was explained that the per capita beverage container recycling in the United States is 191 containers per person; in California it is 570 containers per person.  California’s recycling rate for all CRV containers is 60% (last year’s figure was 61%), but the number of containers increased by 9%, and the recycling volume increased by 800 million bottles and cans.  Ms. Luther stated that Director Blumenfeld has discussed trying to develop a model for San Francisco to try and use fewer single-serve containers instead of focusing on the recycling rate, which may have more of a long-term effect.  There is an energy factor as plastic containers are made out of petroleum.  People are drinking bottled water because they don’t think the water is good, but the water is very good in California.  


The state is 20 years into the recycling program and does not know how to reach an 80% recycling rate.  Ms. Luther has created a concept for the Department of Conservation called Comprehensive Recycling Communities to research how to increase one community’s recycling rate to 80% percent through additional resources.  Monterey was selected because they wanted to test media market messages and was the smallest media market that they could have an impact on.  In the four months of the program, the per capita recycling rate has increased from 25 containers per person to 28, but container numbers are increasing.


The state of California is also looking into the idea of sustainable packaging.  Plastic bottles are being down-cycled and they are turned into carpet or fleece that can eventually end up in a landfill instead of another plastic bottle.  Ms. Luther stated that discussions are being held about the recyclability of the materials in containers with an organization called Greenblue.org that runs the Sustainable Packaging Coalition and is planning on having a convention in San Francisco next year.  It was explained that a lot of people are using materials that are mixed PET and mixed HTPE which makes it difficult to recycle.  In Italy, they limit the number of material types so they are easily identifiable. 


The Department of Conservation is partnering with Ocean Protection Council, the Water Resources Board, CALTRANS, and the Integrated Waste Management Board to review the California Beverage Container and Litter Reduction Act to research why 80% of marine debris is plastic.


The Governor has allocated $60 million of incentive planning money to communities under the sustainable-communities portion of Proposition 84 (called “Green Cities”) to research greening efforts.  The Department of Conservation is interested in forming partnerships with the City, the Commission, and the Department of the Environment to work on implementing goals, whether it is an 80% recycling rate, reducing carbon, or researching how to reduce the number of containers.


Mr. Michael Carlin, Assistant General Manager for Water, San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC), oversees the Water Department and the Hetch-Hetchy Water and Power Project discussed the following topics:


The SFPUC Water Department supplies water to 2.4 million customers in San Francisco, San Mateo County, the northern part of Santa Clara County, and to the southern part of Alameda County.  Customers enjoy a high quality of water that is unsurpassed anywhere in the country, 85% of which originates from the Hetch-Hetchy Valley in Yosemite National Park.  The water is so clean and pure that under US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rules, the water is not treated as in most other communities, but is disinfected to make sure that it does not contain harmful bacteria or viruses.  That water blends with local water supplies in Alameda and San Mateo County and served to customers.  More than 100,000 laboratory tests are performed each year on the quality of water delivered to customers.  In addition there are continuous monitors in line in the water system as it travels from the Sierras to households in San Francisco so if there is a concern, the water can be diverted and not served. 


The United States Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Safe Drinking Water Act and the California Department of Health Services drinking water regulations set standards that the Water Department wants to exceed.  If the state and federal standard is 5, their goal would be less than 1 and if the number reaches above 1 and goes to 3, an alert is sent, research is done, and water may not be served and diverted back to reservoirs or treatment centers.  The Water Department publishes reports on water quality and a Consumer Confidence Report is mailed to each household in San Francisco as required by law every year. San Francisco enjoys a very high quality of water delivered on a 24-7 basis that exceeds federal and state standards.


It was reported that the cost of water is measured in units of water.  A water bill may show 700 cubic feet of units of water that is served to a customer, and each unit of water is 748 gallons.  A 16 oz. plastic bottle of water may cost $2.00. A customer is served 748 gallons each day on their sidewalk on demand.  If you want the same equivalent amount in plastic water bottles, it would cost $5700 not factoring in delivery and recycling costs.  

Mr. Jared Blumenfeld, Director, Department of the Environment, added that bottled water has to be transported in trucks before it is delivered to us.  Water that comes from our tap is generating power that supplies electricity to run all our municipal transportation, the Airport and City Hall, which is clean free energy.


Mr. Jan Lundberg, CultureChange.org, discussed his background as a petroleum industry and marketing analyst and asked that the community take heed of the Department of the Environment’s latest initiative to try to get a handle on petroleum plastic trash.  It was stated that with the events in the geo-political world and with the peak of global oil extraction being approximately now, this is the time for San Francisco and everyone in the world who is hooked on petroleum to look at the easy initial measures that can be taken to get us off petroleum and plastics.  This effort is an elective purchase and can easily be managed through regulations that the City has been known to successfully do.  When consumer convenience is questioned and people can question using this kind of petroleum, it allows them to think about the bigger picture. 


Mr. Lundberg stated that since 1988, he has been researching underlying reasons for conservation in our society and determining action steps mainly in the realm of transportation and plastics. It was reported that plastic water bottles contain additives and chemicals that reach our bodies and are having a serious effect on public health. We are barely starting to measure what phthalates and biphenyl A and other substances are doing especially to very young humans.  It is a historic time to take the initiative and see about reducing containers instead of trying to recycle.


Commissioner Gravanis thanked the speakers for their presentations and stated that plastics have many impacts on human health, transportation, security, waste and other issues.  Commissioner Gravanis stated that speakers have identified many elements of the problem and requested their additional ideas on proposed approaches and solutions.  It is necessary to lead by example and to initiate a huge outreach marketing campaign to try to influence the public to make the connection between the climate change problem and their own purchase, use of, and disposal of water bottles.  Commissioner Gravanis suggested that City agencies ban the purchase of bottled water for their own purposes, thereby setting a good example for the general public.  Meeting participants were asked for recommendations on what the Commission and Board of Supervisors can do.


Mr. Carlin reported that the Water Department has worked with the City purchaser to make it possible for City buildings to stop buying bottled water and to install tap machines instead. In some cases people complained about the internal plumbing in some of the City buildings and that water tasted bad.  It was explained that tap machines have mini filters and people can reuse their cup and refill right from the tap, hot or cold water.  Companies do not have to bring in five-gallon jugs, forty every week, into sites. Water Department staff have been inspecting municipal buildings and assisting in installation.  Research is being done on whether stainless steel bottles can be purchased for employees to use at the tap machine, as it is long-term, durable, and can be taken out into the field. These options to bottled plastic water are cost effective, better products, and more environmentally sustainable.  Mr. Carlin reported that tap machines have been put out to bid and the City Purchaser has associated installation costs available.


Commissioner Gravanis asked if there was a suggestion for distributing water at City events. Mr. Carlin reported that work crews fill up large thermos like jugs that fit on their trucks.  These jugs that can be filled with water could be available for purchase to use at large events. Water trucks that can carry 3000 gallons of potable water to a site for special events in City Hall or other locations are also available. 

Ms. Luther discussed availability of Department of Conservation grants, one of which is $1.5 million allocated to communities to increase recycling, and the other $20 million, called the Market Development Grant Program.  This year grant solicitations are going out in June and will contain a sustainability portion.  A business that could make a case for decreasing the number of water bottles as being a sustainability issue could be eligible for funding.  Ms. Luther discussed the Comprehensive Recycling Community and suggested the Department and Commission discuss their ideas and work with other cities that have good water and have a large number of water bottles.  It was stated that next year, four more cities would be included in the Comprehensive Recycling Program but it wouldn’t be San Francisco because of the high recycling rate; however, San Francisco could apply as a non-profit arm.


Ms. Luther reported that she has completed a cycographic value study for the state of California and discussed the different values between cities and communities and the importance of figuring out people’s motivations when doing a marketing campaign.  It was stated that the State Water Resources Board is concerned with the environmental justice issue associated with bottled water as purchasing costs are at a much higher percentage of their income than for people that do it for convenience.  Ms. Luther suggested that the Department of the Environment and Commission partner with the State Water Resources Board to communicate about the high quality of water in San Francisco to the environmental justice communities. Ms. Luther is sending criteria for a marketing development grant and suggested that the Commission can brainstorm how it could work in San Francisco.  It was stated that people may eventually start to not care about how good tap water is and as a result it will have a long term effect on water quality issues.


Director Blumenfeld stated that the last Department of Conservation study indicated that 1 billion water bottles are not being recycled in California every year, and the numbers that are, are about 16% compared to high recycling rates of any other bottles.  An inquiry was made as to whether Department of Conservation studies indicate why water bottles are less likely to be recycled than any other kind of bottles.  Ms. Luther stated that is one of the issues they are researching in their cycographic marketing studies--the values that would make people put the container into the recycling bin.  It was stated that it may be because aluminum and glass look like they have value in comparison to a plastic container, and that the 16% figure has to do with the increase in the number of plastic bottles.


Chair Wald stated that marketing of water bottles influences its popularity and inquired about whether there were focus groups. Ms. Luther explained that her demographic for the marketing study would be college-educated, married, two children, and working but that may have different values and reasons for purchasing products.  The study would be done in an effort to tailor specific messages to individual groups.  Ms. Luther stated that the Department of Conservation is a $900 million business in California with all the bottles that come in and out, 250 people work on this issue every day to do audits, certifications, investigation, marketing and community outreach.  Director Blumenfeld asked that Ms. Luther request that the person commissioned to do the cycographic study make a presentation to the Policy Committee at their June 11 meeting on their findings on just bottled water in San Francisco.


Mr. Lundberg stated that public education is an important element and would be best done through a grass roots campaign for many segments of the population because state or city government advisories or campaigns may be ignored by people.  The public education campaign aided by the grass roots would focus on the idea of tap water being better than plastic bottled water and even the glass bottled water.  Another element of the campaign would be to convey the message that plastic is not good for you and is a petroleum product.  Mr. Lundberg recommended educating the public to take responsibility for the purchases they make and consume, e.g., to dispose of a disposable plastic item in the appropriate receptacle and not leave it behind. It was also recommended that receptacles and signs be placed in public places and there be enforcement.  Mr. Lundberg indicated his support for adding fees to the purchase of plastic bottles.


Mr. Kevin Drew, Department of the Environment Recycling Coordinator, reported that he has heard from several different organizations in the country and state on this issue since the item has been on the agenda.  The McCloud Watershed Council Board members in Mt. Shasta contacted Mr. Drew to express interest on this topic as Nestle has purchased the right for water to be bottled in their watershed district and it is an important local issue.  They are hopeful that what we are trying to do will help them in their efforts there.  California Trout, statewide organization advocates for trout and trout fishing and watersheds, wrote a strong email in support of consideration of this topic and Californians Against Waste in Sacramento extends their interest. 


The Container Recycling Institute (CRI) in Washington DC that has done a lot of work over two or three decades tracking recycling and beverage container use suggested researching Michigan’s 10 cents deposit (redemption rate for containers) that are increasing recycling rates.  Michigan’s recycling rates are considerably higher than ours here.  Ideas included: (1) looking at an existing body of knowledge to determine what an additional fee would do for redemption of containers (e.g. Michigan); (2) requiring bottled water sources to do testing and labeling similarly to public water sources in order to level the playing field; (3) prohibition on the resale of public water for private use—to not allow the bottling and sale of Hetch Hetcy water sources; and (4) supply water pitchers at meetings. 


Chair Wald asked if there were similar figures on tracking recycling and beverage container use in San Francisco as there is for California.  Mr. Drew stated that we don’t have such a fine distinction because bottled water distributors collect information from the bottlers and distributors that distribute in a regional fashion, not just to San Francisco.  In terms of waste, we don’t have exact figures by bottle type.  Chair Wald recommended that the real cost of plastic water bottles, e.g. the product itself and the environmental impacts of producing the product be researched.  It was stated that a hypothetical figure could be derived as long as assumptions were made clear, e.g. the average Californian drinks so many bottles of bottle waters per day, then we can assume so does the average San Franciscan.  Mr. Drew indicated that CRI has done research nationally and is interested in helping us understand what is happening in San Francisco.  Ms. Luther stated that the Department of Conservation came up with a per capita container figure because they do not have a method to determine the beverages by individual towns/cities as figures come in for the entire state.  It would have to be an extrapolated figure unless every store in San Francisco reported their numbers.  Chair Wald and Mr. Drew stated that some stores may volunteer to provide figures, but not all stores would provide figures.


Mr. Lundberg discussed supportive organizations leading the way– Algorithm Marine Research Foundation, whose founder Captain Charles Moore discovered the massive amount of floating plastic debris in the middle of the Pacific has provided technical information on the nature of plastic components, how they are used and disposed of.  Mr. Lundberg stated that he personally avoids plastics at restaurants and establishments by saying that he is allergic to plastics. 


Public Comment: Ms. Lurilla Harris stated that she has read that if you reuse plastic bottles and fill them with tap water there is some sort of degradation going on.  Ms. Harris stated that we are being told that plastic bottles last 500 years and they don’t degrade, and that is why we want to recycle them.  Chair Wald asked if it is safe to fill up a plastic water bottle and reuse it.  Ms. Luther stated that the State of California is researching this question, but there is no conclusive research at this time.  Ms. Debbie Raphael, Department of the Environment, stated that the Toxics Reduction Program is also researching this issue.  Director Blumenfeld stated that he would not advise refilling and reusing plastic bottles.


Public Comment:  Ms. Denise D’Anne stated that she is opposed to recycling as the more we recycle the more we need to recycle.  Ms. D’Anne expressed her support of banning plastic water bottles instead of increasing recycling of them.  It was stated that we are bending over backwards to accommodate people when we should be banning the product as Ireland has banned plastic bags and has made no accommodations.  Ms. D’Anne stated that the same habits will occur with biodegradable bags as with plastic, and very few people will put it in the right place where it is going to degrade.  It was suggested that manufacturers of these products be taxed so there will be less of the products, they become more costly, and people will think of alternatives.  It was stated that In Europe, additional packaging is also taxed.  Ms. D’Anne stated that people are using unhealthy products for the sake of convenience and should be informed that these products are unhealthy. 


Chair Wald confirmed that plastic water bottles have not yet been banned in any jurisdiction.  Director Blumenfeld stated that the regional statewide nature of plastic bottles would complicate banning of the product as people could go to another jurisdiction to make a purchase, and it could result in an unfair trade issue.  Chair Wald expressed her support for Ms. Luther’s recommendation to work with other jurisdictions to raise awareness of this issue.  Mr. Drew stated that CRI informed him about a deposit that Columbus, Missouri implemented on plastic bottles that had been recently overturned after a long fight with the industry.  Mr. Drew indicated that he would research this issue further.               

5.      INFORMATION:  New Business/Future Agenda Items.  Chair Wald stated that future agenda items would include the report on the cycographic modeling of values and an informational report from McCloud on the water issue.  Chair Wald requested that the water discussions be linked to Urban Environmental Accord 5.  It was stated that the water issue can also be linked to the Precautionary Purchasing Principle as it is a model for other jurisdictions and people in San Francisco to use as a guideline for selection of products.  Chair Wald recommended including a line item to not purchase plastic water bottles on the recommended products list.


6.      PUBLIC COMMENTS:  Members of the public may address the Committee on matters that are within the Committee’s jurisdiction and are not on today’s agenda.  There was no public comment at this time.


7.      ADJOURNMENT.  The Policy Committee meeting adjourned at 6:25 p.m.


The next Policy Committee meeting will be held on Monday, June 11, 2007 at 5:00 p.m., Room 421, City Hall.


** Copies of explanatory documents are available at (1) the Commission’s office, 11 Grove Street, San Francisco, California between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., (2) on the Committee’s website https://sites.google.com/a/sfenvironment.org/commission/policy-committee as attachments to the meeting agenda or minutes, (3) upon request to the Commission Secretary, at telephone number 415-355-3709, or via e-mail at [email protected].


Respectfully submitted by,



Monica Fish

Commission Secretary

TEL:  (415) 355-3709

FAX: (415) 554-6393


Approved:  June 11, 2007

Unknown user,
May 18, 2010, 10:45 AM
Unknown user,
May 18, 2010, 10:45 AM