Seattle's New $1 Fine: Failure to Compost

Council unanimously approves effort to curb food waste
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 24, 2014 6:26 AM CDT
Updated Sep 24, 2014 7:00 AM CDT
Seattle's New $1 Fine: Failure to Compost
This May 14, 2014, photo shows a bin for leftover food scraps at North Central College in Naperville, Ill., where students have been composting in their cafeteria for three years.   (AP Photo/Daily Herald, Bev Horne)

Seattle is nudging its residents toward more careful waste disposal: Put too much food waste in your regular trash, and you could owe the city $1, according to a new rule unanimously approved by the city council. If garbage collectors notice, at a glance, that more than 10% of a home's trash could have been composted, residents could get a ticket on their bins warning of a fine the next time their trash is collected. Collectors will record tickets on an existing computer in their vehicles, the Seattle Times reports.

Apartment buildings and businesses will also have random dumpster checks; they'll receive two warnings, then a $50 fine on the third offense. Though the fines will become an option in July—after tickets begin in January—officials doubt they'll be fining many people. "The point isn't to raise revenue,” says the city's solid-waste director. “We care more about reminding people to separate their materials." Seattle is now the second US city to require composting, after San Francisco, the BBC reports. The Natural Resources Defense Council says up to 40% of US food goes to waste, while the EPA notes that just 5% of scraps go to compost. (One "zero-waste" restaurant is trying to do something about it.)

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