There’s a new contender for greenest city in America. Seattle’s City Council unanimously passed a new policy that will fine businesses and residents for not composting.
Starting Jan. 1, 2015, all Seattle residents and commercial establishments must separate food waste and compostable paper for recycling — meaning these items can’t get sent to the landfills like regular garbage. With the new regulation, the city’s trash collectors can hand out tickets if they find a trash bin with more than 10 percent compostable waste. “After receiving two warnings, residents and businesses will be fined $50 for dumpsters and a more modest $1 for waste at single-family homes,” CNN reports.
Even though a $1 fine isn’t very much (for comparison’s sake, San Francisco fines its residents up to $100 for failing to compost), Seattle isn’t actually trying to make money off of trash violators. Rather, the city wants to stress to its residents the importance of recycling. As Tim Croll (Seattle Public Utilities’ solid-waste director) tells the Seattle Times, the city has collected less than $2,000 in fines since it outlawed recyclable items from the trash a whole nine years ago.
“The point isn’t to raise revenue,” Croll adds. “We care more about reminding people to separate their materials.”
Seattle has a goal of recycling 60 percent of waste by 2015 and 70 percent by 2022. However, its recycling rate for 2013 was at 56 percent, which fell a little short of the city’s target, the Times reports. The new law should generate an additional 38,000 tons of compost material every year, hopefully putting the city back on track.
Food and paper waste is a huge, expensive problem for the whole of America. We’ve previously reported that more than any other material thrown away by Americans, paper has the biggest presence in landfills. According to the EPA, paper takes up the largest chuck of solid municipal solid waste at 27 percent. As for our food scraps, a staggering 40 percent of the food in this country is completely wasted, or about 36 million tons of food annually, setting us back $165 billion in wasted costs per year.
Seattle’s continued efforts reduce waste is something that other cities should aspire to.