Most of us in Berkeley have got used to ditching our garden and food waste into our big green wheelie bins and hauling them out for regular collection by the city.

What some of us didn’t know is that, since January 1, had we decided for some reason not to separate our plant debris from the usual landfill-destined trash, we would have been breaking the law. Since the beginning of the year, Alameda County requires that all plant debris be separated and recycled. In fact, a surcharge is applied to customers who refuse to separate their load for composting.

No surprise to hear that Berkeley residents are a willing, eco-friendly lot. In his latest newsletter, Mayor Tom Bates reports that “virtually all” customers are complying with the rule, allowing the city to greatly increase the volume of plant debris it is diverting from the landfill.

Tracey Taylor is co-founder of Berkeleyside and co-founder and editorial director of Cityside, the nonprofit parent to Berkeleyside and The Oaklandside. Before launching Berkeleyside, Tracey wrote for...