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Sure, the incentive to compost is the putative reason for this regulation, but exactly how is it enforced? In order for city officials and trash collectors to know you have committed the civic sin of disposing of leftover food in your trashcan, they have to examine the contents of your trashcan. Let’s hope the citizens of Seattle and trash collectors can come to some kind of silent truce over this. Do they collectors really want to examine every load they dump into the truck for transgressions? (Lord help us, the city probably offers a bonus of taxpayer money for tagging violators.)
In Seattle, wasting food will now earn you a scarlet letter — well, a scarlet tag, to be more accurate.
The bright red tag, posted on a garbage bin, tells everyone who sees it that you’ve violated a new city law that makes it illegal to put food into trash cans.
“I’m sure neighbors are going to see these on their other neighbors’ cans,” says Rodney Watkins, a lead driver for Recology CleanScapes, a waste contractor for the city. He’s on the front lines of enforcing these rules.
Any household with more than 10 percent food in its garbage earns a bright red tag notifying it of the infraction.
any single-family trash container with more than 10 percent recyclables or food waste by volume will face a $1 fine on the next garbage bill.
Multi-family property owners with too much food waste in trash will get up to two warning notices, and then a $50 fine.
That system of warnings and $50 fines will also apply to businesses. Currently only businesses that serve food are required to sort food scraps and waste for composting. The new law will require all types of businesses to do that.
Public trash cans will be exempt from the new ordinance. Garbage containers in customer dining areas will also be exempt, if a business provides food-waste composting containers.
The council vote to pass the new composting measure was a unanimous 9-to-0. No public hearing was required.
Seattle is falling short of its goal to recycle and compost 60 percent of its waste by 2015. The years-long bump in recycling has dropped, and only 56 percent of waste was diverted in 2013. Seattle sends about 100,000 tons of food waste to a landfill per year.
Under the new rules, collectors can take a cursory look each time they dump trash into a garbage truck.
If they see compostable items make up 10 percent or more of the trash, they’ll enter the violation into a computer system their trucks already carry, and will leave a ticket on the garbage bin that says to expect a $1 fine on the next garbage bill.
Apartment buildings and businesses will be subject to the same 10 percent threshold but will get two warnings before they are fined. A third violation will result in a $50 fine. Dumpsters there will be checked by inspectors on a random basis.