City to Fine Residents for Putting Too Much Food in Garbage

Your refrigerator fails and you dump a large amount of spoiled food in the garbage? That could mean a fine under a new ordinance in Seattle.

The measure is designed to encourage composting, and it empowers garbage collectors to conduct a “cursory” inspection of residents’ trash in an effort to find violators. Writes the Seattle Times:

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.

Collectors will begin tagging garbage bins and Dumpsters with educational tickets starting Jan. 1 when they find violations. But fines won’t start until July 1.

The Seattle City Council voted 9-0 for the new ordinance. explains the motivation behind it:

The city is issuing the fines to meet its self-imposed goal of recycling 60 percent of all waste in 2015. Seattle’s recycling rate in 2013 was 56 percent, a slight increase over 2012’s rate.

“Compostables are about 30 percent of what is still in the garbage and they are the largest target we have to help us reach our goals,” Timothy Croll, solid waste director of the utilities commission, told Q13. “Also, composting food waste reduces emissions of methane, which is a strong cause of climate change” [Emphasis in original].

The city expects residents and businesses to put compostables in separate compost bins.