Nanny-State Update

Seattle’s salad days of trashing table scraps are coming to an end.

By Matthew Halverson March 18, 2009 Published in the April 2009 issue of Seattle Met

The city is inching closer and closer to making composting mandatory.

It’s not illegal to throw leftovers in the garbage in the City of Seattle, but it may not be long before it is. The city is tired of trucking 45,000 tons of your banana peels, potato skins, and apple cores 250 miles to the Columbia Ridge Landfill in Arlington, Oregon, every year, so starting March 30 it’s ramping up recycling services for your dinner-table detritus: Just throw table scraps—including chicken bones and moldy cheese—in the 96-gallon yard waste bin you already have, they say; Waste Management or Cleanscapes will pick it up at your curb every week and ship it to Cedar Grove Composting in Everett. Or, they suggest, if you’re really into communing with Mother Earth, you can compost it in your backyard and feed it to your dogwoods.

They’re not mentioning your third option—just pitching your old food in the trash—and that’s the point. “Food waste is not formally banned” from being thrown out, says Brett Stav, a senior planning and development specialist with Seattle Public Utilities. “This process of letting you choose to either compost it at home or subscribe to a service that allows you to put it in your yard waste bin is a more amenable tactic.”

Not for nothing, he also says the city is considering residential trash-can inspections in a year if people don’t seem to be boarding the good-stewardship bandwagon.

In other words, you’re being eased into a world where food will never see the inside of a Dumpster again. “They did the same thing, to an extent, when they started the recycling program,” says Laura Matter, an environmental educator at Seattle Tilth’s Garden Hotline. “They started with a getting-used-to-it period, and then it was required.” Seattle, the refuse revolution has arrived.

Filed under