Gregmoon yz2b4n

Image: Sarah Morse

When is your trash no longer your trash? Earlier this year, Seattle began enforcing a rule to compel residents to divide refuse into three containers—one for garbage, another for recyclables, a third for compost. Collectors slap red tags on garbage cans containing more than 10 percent of the materials meant for the other two bins. (The ordinance also called for slapping $1 fines on rubbish renegades; mayor Ed Murray has since suspended that plan.) The goal: cut down on the 100,000 tons of food waste—soiled pizza boxes, last night’s lasagna—that accompany noncompostables to an Oregon landfill some 300 miles away. Computer programmer Greg Moon, a lifelong local, is one of eight plaintiffs—most affiliated with Seattle’s Tea Party chapter—who filed a King County Supreme Court suit against the city in July, claiming a warrantless search through the stinky stuff is a constitutional privacy violation. Seattle Public Utilities fired back, clarifying that collectors don’t sift through trash, issuing scarlet tags of shame only when they observe obvious infractions. Nevertheless, says Moon, the rule is a slippery slope, one that could lead to a reeking heap of government overreach. 

As a rule, Seattleites really love their recycling. Are you the exception?

I’ve been an avid recycler since I was a kid. Especially at parties: Everyone’s having a good time, getting drunk, and I’ll be picking up recyclables out of the garbage and putting them in the recycling bin. But then I don’t go inspecting their garbage. If you’re not as avid as I am—it’s America. It’s still a free country.

So inspecting garbage is anti-American? 

We need to challenge the government when these kinds of issues come up, even when they seem trivial. I think it’s important for us to push back as citizens to protect our privacy. Almost everyone I talk to just assumes the NSA has our texts, and our social media, and our voice mail.

Okay, but we’re talking about trash here.

It isn’t a world-changing thing, but there’s the principle. If you stop them on the small things they won’t progress to world-changing things. 

But if the NSA is already reading our texts, aren’t you guys too late?

Yeah but maybe fighting back includes starting at these smaller levels. 

You met several of your fellow plaintiffs at Tea Party events. How did you get involved with the party? 

It started back in 2009 with the stimulus package. It’s funny, there are things that go back to my childhood. I’m a conservationist; I recycle. And ever since I was a kid I hated debt.

Living in such a liberal city, you must get into a lot of political arguments. 

There’s tension sometimes. I’ve had some friends of friends get upset with me. But whether you’re talking about fiscal conservatism or a compost suit, my dad—he’s pretty much a classical liberal—taught me “Disagree, but don’t be disagreeable.” I may disagree with you, but you have your right to speak. I have my beliefs and I’m not afraid to state them. It offends some people. And that’s life.

 

*Update via Seattle Times: A judge declared the ordinance unconstitutional. Good news, Greg!

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