Quantcast
Business

Find Out Which U.S. City Shames You Into Composting

Seattle joins other progressive cities like San Francisco, Portland, Vancouver and New York to have composting mandates. Last September, the Seattle City Council passed an ordinance prohibiting food from the city's residential and commercial garbage The ban went into effect on Jan. 1, but fines won't be issued until July. In the meantime, the city has an interesting way to make people compost: shame.

Seattle has long been a leader in the U.S. for its recycling and composting programs.
Photo credit: Shutterstock

Any establishment—businesses, single family homes, apartments, you name it—with more than 10 percent food or compostable paper in its garbage earns a scarlet letter—in the form of a bright red tag—on their garbage bin. The goal of this public shaming is to warn residents about impending fines and, hopefully, create an even stronger culture of composting in which it is simply the norm. All establishments will have to subscribe to a composting service offered by the city for a fee (just like garbage and recycling), compost their food waste themselves or take the food waste to a processing facility, according to Seattle Public Utilities (SPU).

Why the hard line on composting? SPU estimates that "Seattle sends approximately 100,000 tons of food waste 300 miles to a landfill in Eastern Oregon each year, resulting in higher costs and greenhouse gas emissions."According to the Environmental Protection Agency, organic materials continue to be the largest source of municipal solid waste—more than plastic, paper, metal or glass. SPU believes the food waste law will "divert 38,000 tons of food scraps from the landfill via composting, thus helping the city achieve its goal of recycling and composting 60 percent of its waste by 2015."

Seattle has long been a leader in the U.S. for its recycling and composting programs. Seattle has had curbside food waste collection since 2005. In 2007, the city adopted a zero waste resolution with the goal of diverting 70 percent of its waste to recycling and composting by 2030. Then, in 2009, Seattle required all residential properties to subscribe to food and yard waste collection or participate in backyard composting. Seattle businesses where customers discard single use packaging have been required to provide recycling and composting bins since 2009, as well. Multi-family buildings have been required to provide compost collection service for their residents since 2011. The city has also prohibited recyclables in the garbage since 2005, but now, instead of just leaving the garbage on the curb as collectors have done for the last decade, the city will be issuing fines.

Seattle wants to divert 60 percent of its waste by the end of 2015 and 70 percent by 2030. Photo credit: Sustainable Berkeley Lab

So the new mandate is not some giant leap. Recycling and composting have been a city-wide practice for years. But there has been no way to really regulate whether recyclable and compostable items are being properly sorted until now. Beginning in July, non-compliant, single-family residences will receive a $1 fine on their bi-monthly garbage bill. Multi-family and commercial properties will receive a warning notice. After the third notice, they will receive a $50 fine.

Maybe you're wondering: Why the need for tags and fines? With some of the strictest recycling and composting laws in the country and some of the most environmentally-minded citizens too, Seattle residents are probably on top of this recycling and composting thing, right?

"Right now, I'm tagging probably every fifth can," Rodney Watkins, a waste contractor for the city, told NPR. "I don't know if that's just the holidays, or the fact that I'm actually paying a lot more attention." Either way, the city wants to achieve its goal of diverting 60 percent of its waste by 2015. It's currently at 56 percent, so city officials are hoping this measure will get them there by the end of the year. According to SPU, citizens are on board, too: 74 percent supported it and only 11 percent were opposed. And the food waste the city collects? It's turned into compost for local parks and gardens.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

How to Achieve Ambitious Sustainability Goals at the City Level

Bill Nye Says ‘Give a F**k’ About Climate Change and Forget ‘Deflategate’

'Just Eat It': Documentary Explores Food Waste From Farm to Fridge

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sponsored
Climate
350 .org / Flickr / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Taking Your First Steps Into Local Climate Action

Yes, yes—it can feel daunting. The climate crisis is more urgent than it's ever been. Some days we feel like we're making good progress, when we hear of countries powered by 100 percent renewable energy or a big commitment to take on fossil fuel corporations from a city like New York. But other days, it's a heavy burden knowing there's so much more that needs to be done to unseat the fossil fuel industry and move to a just, Fossil Free, renewably-powered world.

Keep reading... Show less
Food

'Eating Animals' Drives Home Where Our Food Really Comes From

It started with a call from actress and animal rights activist Natalie Portman to author Jonathan Safran Foer. The latter had recently taken a break from novel-writing to publish 2009's New York Times best-selling treatise Eating Animals—an in-depth discussion of what it means to eat animals in an industrialized world, with all attendant environmental and ethical concerns. The two planned a meeting in Foer's Brooklyn backyard, and also invited documentary director Christopher Dillon Quinn (God Grew Tired of Us) over. The idea was to figure out how to turn Foer's sprawling, memoiristic book into a documentary that would ignite mainstream conversations around our food systems.

Keep reading... Show less
Food

A Ghanaian Chef Feeding His Country and Combating Food Waste

Ghanaian chef Elijah Amoo Addo is on a mission to feed his nation on the excesses the food industry creates. Since 2012, he has been collecting unwanted stock or food nearing its use-by date from suppliers, farmers and restaurants in Ghana to redistribute to orphanages, hospitals, schools and vulnerable communities through his not-for-profit organization Food for All Africa. They provide meals through a Share Your Breakfast program in addition to donating stock to be used later. The organization supports and encourages communities to farm and works with stakeholders within Ghana's food industry on ways to combat waste.

Keep reading... Show less
Animals
Tucuxi Amazon river dolphins (Sotalia fluviatilis). Projeto Boto

Hunting, Fishing Cause Dramatic Decline in Amazon River Dolphins

By Claire Asher

Populations of two species of river dolphin in the Amazon are halving every decade, according to the results of a twenty-two year survey.

The Amazon rainforest is home to the Amazon river dolphin, or Boto (Inia geoffrensis) and the Tucuxi (Sotalia fluviatilis). But the results of a long-term study published in PLoS ONE show that both of these once abundant aquatic mammals are now in rapid decline in the Brazilian Amazon, likely due to hunting and fishing.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Energy

'Historic First': Nebraska Farmers Return Land to Ponca Tribe in Effort to Block Keystone XL

By Jessica Corbett

In a move that could challenge the proposed path of TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline—and acknowledges the U.S. government's long history of abusing Native Americans and forcing them off their lands—a Nebraska farm couple has returned a portion of ancestral land to the Ponca Tribe.

Keep reading... Show less
Business

Sustainable Fashion Innovator Makes Fiber From Pineapple Leaves

In 1960, 97 percent of the fibers used in clothing came from natural materials. Today that number has fallen to 35 percent. But sustainable fashion veteran Isaac Nichelson wants to reverse that trend.

His company, Circular Systems S.P.C. (Social Purpose Corp.), has developed an innovative technology for turning food waste into thread, according to a Fast Company profile published Friday.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Politics
EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt at the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment on April 26. EPA / YouTube

Chair of Senate Environment Panel to Call Scott Pruitt to Testify on Scandals

The Republican chairman of the Senate committee with oversight of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) plans to call the agency's embattled chief Scott Pruitt to testify, specifically in response to multiple scandals and investigations surrounding the administrator.

Through a spokesperson, Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., informed Reuters of his decision to compel Pruitt to come before the Environment and Public Works Committee to answer questions about his alleged abuse of his office.

Keep reading... Show less
Politics
Pexels

Senate’s Farm Bill Moves Forward—But What Is It, Anyway?

By Shannan Lenke Stoll

The Senate Agriculture Committee just passed its version of a farm bill in a 20-1 vote Thursday. It's one more step in what has been a delayed journey to pass a 2018–2022 bill before the current one expires in September.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!