Unbeknownst to most Seattle residents, Jan. 1 marked the commencement of a brand new law that’ll soon affect everyone in the city. A ban has been introduced that prohibits the disposal of food and food waste in trash cans. The food part is self-explanatory. Food waste, however, pertains to items such as soiled pizza boxes, dirty napkins, soiled paper towels and all other forms of similar food waste. While the new law won’t be enforced yet, it’ll start being enforced for businesses and homes on July 1.
The purpose of this new law is to increase the number of individuals that recycle and compost. Starting on July 1, any single-family residence with more than 10 percent food or food waste in their garbage receptacle will receive a one dollar fine on their next garbage bill. It may not seem like a big charge, but considering how many people there are in Seattle, it could end up being pretty big money for garbage companies. For most people, one dollar isn’t too much money. Hopefully, the idea of reducing personal waste will be appealing enough to those who don’t already compost and recycle and will convince them to start.
As for multi-family property owners such as condo or apartment complex owners, the law will be slightly different. The landlord will receive two warnings before actually receiving a fine on their bill. After two warnings if there is still too much food and food waste in their garbage bins, they’ll receive a $50 fine on their bill until the tenants can learn to recycle and compost.
The two warning rule will be applied to businesses as well. Currently, all Seattle food businesses are required to separate food scraps and waste for composting. Starting July 1, all businesses, no matter what trade, will be required to do the same.
The only form of exemption for this new law will be public garbage cans. I’ve been to Seattle a number of times, and it’s rare to see a trash can that’s not overflowing. If the city could figure out a way to restrict the amount of food and food waste that went into those receptacles as well, it would probably help reduce the waste that Seattle produces in general.
Between 2013 and 2014, the city of Seattle was aiming to recycle and compost 60 percent of its waste, but fell a little bit short and only managed to reach 56 percent. With the introduction of this new law in July, Seattle Public Utilities is hoping to divert 38,000 tons of food scrap from landfills into composting. Currently, Seattle sends 100,000 tons of food waste annually to landfills.
In recent years, recycling has definitely increased. However, I’ve noticed it’s pretty rare to see a composting bin for consumers to contribute to. Places like Whole Foods and Panera Bread have them located everywhere near their eating area, but outside of them, I can’t think of a business that provides a composting bin for customers. Part of the reason I think composting hasn’t been introduced more publicly is because people are lazy. Even at Bellevue College, I’ve seen students throw food into the garbage bin, because it was the closest one. Adding 10 feet to a route to throw something away in the proper container not only reduces personal waste, but the waste the college produces as well.
Personally, I’m a fan of this law. While it may add a little bit of extra time to our lives, we’re helping the environment even if it’s in the smallest of ways. I can’t even imagine how full our landfills are. If we’re composting and recycling, we are contributing to a cycle of recreation instead of mindlessly adding to our landfills.
In the future, I hope that this law expands to the whole state of Washington rather than just being exclusive to Seattle, and I hope that the fines grow. Telling people they’re going to be charged one dollar for too much trash at home, or using a two warning system until actually providing a consequence isn’t good enough. As inhabitants of this planet, we should be doing our part to protect our resources and our environment in every way possible.
One way for students to start preparing for the ban is to really start utilizing the compost and recycling bins located around campus. Walk the extra 10 feet, it wont hurt anybody.