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
Politics
L: Michael Coghlan / Flickr R: Coloured chest X-ray of a male patient showing evidence of a mesothelioma lung cancer, which is usually associated with exposure to asbestos. Zephyr / Science Photo Library / Getty Images

Report: 140 House Members Vote Against Chemical Safeguards Every Time

The Environmental Working Group Action Fund, the political arm of the Environmental Working Group (EWG), released a first-ever report that scores how each member of the U.S. House of Representatives voted on chemical policy and safety.

The scorecard shows that 140 House members voted against chemical safeguards every time, while 149 members consistently voted for chemical safety protections.

Keep reading... Show less
Food
grobery / CC BY SA 2.0 (Flickr)

What’s for Dinner? A Preview of the People, Process and Politics Updating Federal Dietary Guidelines

By Sarah Reinhardt

Months behind schedule, two federal departments have officially kicked off the process for writing the 2020-2025 iteration of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Updated and reissued every five years, these guidelines are the nation's most comprehensive and authoritative set of nutrition recommendations. And although the process is meant to be science-based and support population health—and has historically done so, with some notable exceptions—there are plenty of reasons to believe that the Trump administration is preparing to pitch a few curveballs.

Keep reading... Show less
Health
Vladimirovic / iStock / Getty Images Plus

The Many Hazards of Toxic Algae Outbreaks

By Sarah Graddy and Robert Coleman

This summer, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) is tracking outbreaks of potentially toxic algae across the U.S. We have been startled to find that these outbreaks are erupting everywhere: from the East Coast to the West Coast, from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico.

Keep reading... Show less
Health
London skyline with level 32 "moderate" air pollution in Sept. 2017. David Holt / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Air Pollution Particles Discovered in Placentas

Researchers have found the first evidence that soot from polluted air can travel from a pregnant woman's lungs and reach the placenta via the bloodstream, according to a press release from Queen Mary University of London.

The study examined the placentas of five women living in London after they gave birth. The women were all non-smokers, had uncomplicated pregnancies and delivered healthy babies.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Health
An asbestos cleanup crew before the demolition of Moorpark High School in CA in 1996. Carlos Chavez / LA Times / Getty Images

EPA Is Failing to Protect School Children From Asbestos, Internal Watchdog Agency Says

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) isn't doing enough to protect the 50 million school children and seven million teachers and staff who spend time in U.S. private and public schools from asbestos exposure.

That's the conclusion of a report released Monday by the EPA's Office of Inspector General (OIG), the agency's internal watchdog.

Keep reading... Show less
Animals
Pexels

Lawsuit Launched to Push Trump Administration to Protect Giraffes From Extinction

Conservation groups Tuesday filed a notice of intent to sue the Trump administration for failing to respond to a legal petition to protect giraffes under the Endangered Species Act. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was required to respond to the April 2017 petition within 90 days, but nearly 17 months have passed with no finding.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Popular
Pexels

Under the USDA’s Definition, 90% of Iowa’s Farms Are 'Family Farms'

By Dan Nosowitz

When you think of "family farms," a nice bucolic image probably comes to mind: something small, maybe lower-budget or lower-tech, run by a family.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
Pexels

Coca-Cola Eyes Cannabis-Infused Drinks Market

Coca-Cola is "closely watching" the cannabis drinks market, the world's largest beverage company said Monday in an online statement.

Coke announced its interest after a report from Canada's BNN Bloomberg said the soda giant was in "serious talks" with Edmonton-based Aurora Cannabis, a medical marijuana producer and distributor, to develop drinks infused with cannabidiol, or CBD.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

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