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Seattle imposes fines on those who throw away food

Staff writer |
Seattle is about to become the first U.S. city to fine anyone who throws leftover food scraps and other organic waste into the trash instead of setting them aside to make compost.

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Seattle's city hall will offer free trash cans for food leftovers, paper napkins, leaves and grass, and cardboard pizza cartons.
A new municipal ordinance that took effect at the beginning of the year specifically bans businesses and private homes from throwing organic waste into the trash, and though for now offenders get only a warning in the form of a red sticker fixed to their garbage cans, starting in July those warnings will be replaced by fines.

Single-family homes in whose trash cans organic food scraps are found will be fined $1 for each infraction, while in the case of businesses and apartment buildings where garbage deposits are centralized, the fine could be as much as $50.

Meanwhile, Seattle's city hall will offer local residents free trash cans for throwing away food leftovers, paper napkins, leaves and grass from the garden, and even cardboard pizza cartons.

The trash cans can be used to store organic refuse so that each home can produce its own compost, or can be left in the street to be picked up by trucks for recycling.

"Seattle is a national leader in recycling. Most of our city's businesses and residents are already composting. This requirement is a progression of our collective efforts that help our city become even greener," said Tim Croll, solid waste director of Seattle Public Utilities, or SPU.

According to a city hall survey, 74 percent of Seattle residents are in favor of the measure, while 11 percent are against it.

The city currently recycles 56 percent of its waste materials, or 407,125 tons a year, a figure that has nonetheless become bogged down in recent years and which city hall seeks to increase by imposing this measure.

Organic waste collected by the city will be delivered to processing plants that will turn it into compost for the city's parks and gardens.

Each year Seattle, a city of 650,000 inhabitants, creates an average of 100,000 tons of organic waste that never gets recycled and ends up at a dump in the neighboring state of Oregon, which costs the municipal treasury a considerable sum and contributes to greenhouse gas emissions.


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