Mandatory composting/food recycling comes to Seattle

“Starting Jan. 1, it will be illegal to throw food and food waste in the trash in Seattle, when a new ban takes effect to increase recycling and composting in the city.” [Seattle Post-Intelligencer] “Food waste” includes things like used napkins and pizza boxes with food residue clinging to them. Residents are subject to fines if more than ten percent of their trash flow consists of recyclables, defined as including food and its associated materials as well as glass, metal, and other items subject to recycling. So are ordinary businesses (Seattle restaurants already come under a separate regime of recycling rules) and apartment landlords, who notoriously have trouble monitoring and controlling what tenants throw in the bins.

Readers who live there: is it lawful in Seattle to engage a private garbage service that isn’t subject to the municipal service’s rules?


  • Everything that isn’t banned is compulsory.

    And then they wonder why the cops choke people out for selling loose cigarettes.

    But if we say “the government should not have the power to do these things”, we’re told that we’re pro-corporation racists who should move to Somalia if we hate rules so much.

  • I live in Switzerland, which is also a place that loves recycling. But, you know what they do? They charge for garbage by the bag. 1 35 liter bag (about a kitchen garbage bag size) is about $2. Recycling and composting? Free. Do you really think people stuff cardboard boxes into their garbage bags or the soda bottles in with the garbage? Of course not! Can you? Sure. But you’ll pay.

    Carrots work a lot better than sticks and require no gov’t expenditures to control. Also, you’ve not seen a full garbage bag until you’ve seen how the Swiss can pack one full. I’ve lived her 5 years and have gotten better, but am no where near what a good Swiss family can do.

  • In Seattle, lick the pizza boxes.

    Where to paper towels go: paper recycling or food waste? Cloth napkins and kitchen towels are so much nicer and don’t add to the waste stream. They do need to be washed. What is the effect of that on the environment?

    One plus is that the city gets to charge for increased water use.

  • The short answer to your Seattle question is “no.” Here is the link I suppose that I could cancel service and haul my trash to the transfer station myself, but it is prohibitively expensive and if someone turnede in (would the garbage route drivers?) I would probably suffer a fine or other penalty.

  • I really want to dislike this. But I’m having trouble figuring out how it is different than, say, littering laws, which I’m definitely in favor of.

    I do like Suzanne’s post about Switzerland, though. Totally makes sense.

  • Does “food stuff” mean chix bones, meat fat, moldy cheese? My wife did the research and said that we can’t.

    A quick Google search and I get this from many sites (this is from GAIAMlife:

    Meat and bones: Not in a home composter. As with compostable plates and such, compost in a residential compost bin or pile typically doesn’t get hot enough to sufficiently break down meat or bones. Same goes for dairy products, sauces, oils and fats: These may be OK in small doses as part of plate scrapings, but you don’t want to pour a cup of bacon grease or cheese sauce in your compost.

    Scraps can be fine but watch out for going over that magic, somehow-measurable, “Your a commie!! 10% threshold.

    Where’s my Montana brochures?

  • The real question is this: Why is a city involved at all in garbage? See, the trouble with Seattle and other cities is that they have a monopoly enforced at the point of a gun. The city REQUIRES you to buy this service. The no fuss, no muss approach is to get the city out of the way and simply mandate that trash must be disposed of properly. How? First off, open up the market so multiple haulers (ok, ANY qualified hauler) can operate in the city. Eliminate the requirement to have a service as some people, like me, haul their own to the transfer station (I have this “right” since I don’t, and never will, live inside the city limits). Bust the litters….

    As Evil HR points out, there are incentives for minimizing the weight / volume of trash – I’m charged by the ton at the transfer station (ok, by the hundredth of a ton), so ever 20 lbs of recyclables I manage to sort out and drop off at the adjacent recycling facility reduces my trash bill.

    Oh, and I can hardly wait until someone has a Seattle SWAT team at their door over too much cheezy puffs in the trash.

  • The Swiss situation sounds a lot like the situation we encountered in Ireland, where all trash is weighed and the owners of the property are charged by the kg. This leads to the unfortunate situation where public trashbins become very valuable, and therefore steps must be taken to discourage people from dumping their household trash in them. This is done by locking them and making the slot for trash insertion quite small.

    It is not a problem for people who just have a candy wrapper, but for people on boats who are not in a marina, it is a nightmare, because no one wants to take your trash, not even with an offer of money to pay for it. We ended up sneaking it into cafe restrooms in small bags for disposal. The Irish are not really happy with this solution.

    The greens are really getting good at stopping up the waste streams, in order to reduce western society to something akin to the tribal hunter-gatherer societies in Africa. At first it was visible and demonstrable pollution and litter, but then it was small quantities of “harmful toxics”, and now they want us to stop emitting CO2 and any sort of trash/garbage. Plug up the A55hole, and the body just dies…