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Keep Big Brother out of my trash

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Ever-perceived by the rest of the nation as perched on the fringe of rationality, San Francisco is about to flip its lid once again. The lid's color, if it's any comfort, is green – as in one of the three recycling bins into which its residents will be forced to sort their food waste.

The consequences for the unwilling, if the mayor has his way? Fines up to $1,000 from the garbage police.

I kid you not. Mayor Gavin Newsom is taking the leap from voluntary environmental engagement to an enforced one. You will recycle, or you'll be outed, says the legislation drafted by the city's Department of the Environment.

Other cities have mandatory recycling. San Francisco is upping the ante, creating the first composting law, directing where you'll dish your table scraps.

Currently, 70 percent of waste escapes the landfill. To meet a goal of recycling 75 percent by 2010, the mayor is about to displace voluntary compliance with mandatory enforcement.

If your coffee grounds are found drizzling through your black bin, not your green, well then, you've just found yourself on the wrong side of the law.

History repeatedly reminds us that extreme fervor by government leads to infringement on basic rights. Yet eager, young, and even brilliant leaders experience moments of impaired reason when confronted with an idea that appears a perfect solution for a historical moment.

So recycling, a mechanism that depends on the goodwill of rational people willing to pitch in to realign earth's growing environmental imbalance, begins to be transformed.

As the momentum of those who chose to recycle grows and as global warming leaves its footprint not merely on our consciousness but on our daily language, politicians opt in where they should not.

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