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Compost, Seattleites! (Or Risk Being Fined)

Flickr Photo/Dianne Yee (CC-BY-NC-ND)
A vote by the Seattle City Council may put the city more on par with Portland, Ore., in terms of food waste recycling.

It'll be a busy day at Seattle city hall Monday. Mayor Ed Murray is proposing his first city budget since he was elected last fall.

Among other things, the mayor is expected to announce funding for more police officers and for his preschool proposal.

Further down the agenda, though, is a smaller item that could add up to something big.


It may not be as flashy a topic as new police officers.

But Seattle City Councilmember Sally Bagshaw thinks what you put on your curb every week is something that's really important.

She's talking trash.

The full council is set to vote Monday on a new rule that would make curbside composting of food scraps mandatory.

Bagshaw says it's a step whose time has come.

Bagshaw: “Seattle still sends more than (100,000) tons of garbage to the landfill every year. I mean, just think about that number: (100,000) tons. And we have found that in the business, in the multi-family, in the single family, all about the same, about 35 percent – that’s over a third – is compostable.”

Just like with recycling, garbage haulers will be able to monitor your trash bins for table scraps. And they'll be able to report the bins with 10 percent or more of food waste.

Single family households who violate the policy would be fined $1 on their bi-monthly garbage bill. Bagshaw admits the amount is puny.

She describes the fine as part of an education campaign, rather than a punitive measure.

More importantly, she says the rule could help Seattle finally make its long time goal of recycling 60 percent of its waste.

Owners of multi-family buildings will face a fine of $50 dollars after the third violation.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated how many tons of garbage Seattle produces. Seattleites throw out about 100,000 tons of trash.

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