By Peggy Chapman
Northwest Asian Weekly
If you weren’t aware, starting January 1, 2015, all residents and businesses are required to compost. So yes, you should already be composting now! And starting next year residents could be fined $1 if there is too much food waste or food-soiled paper in their garbage. Apartment owners and businesses could receive a $50 fine after two warnings. Garbage truck drivers will visually check garbage containers of single family houses and small apartment/condo complexes. If they notice that more than 10 percent of the container contents are compostable or recyclable, they will leave a notice and a $1 charge will be added to the customer’s solid waste bill.
Likewise, garbage containers at larger apartment/condo complexes and businesses will also be visually checked for compostables and recyclables. If more than 10 percent of the container contents are recyclable or compostable, the bill payer will receive a warning notice on the container and in the mail. After two notices, a $50 fine will be added to the customer’s solid waste bill.
So how do you make the composting process simple if you are not familiar with it? Here are some tips:
-Order an outdoor food waste cart or container for your home or business
-Collect food scraps in your kitchen before taking them to your outdoor container
-Keep your kitchen collection container clean
-Determine what items go in your food waste, recycling, and garbage containers
-Regularly empty the container into the outdoor food waste cart
It is interesting to note that Seattle is a national recycling leader. According to Seattle Public Utilities (SPU), residents and businesses currently recycle or compost 400,000 tons of food waste, yard waste, paper, plastic, glass, cardboard, and aluminum annually. This is testament to the city’s commitment to recycling.
According to SPU, International District residents have done a great job of composting their food waste by putting it in their “Food & Yard Waste” cart. It’s hard to say what accounts for the differences between neighborhoods, but International District residents and apartment managers have been receptive to the trainings and site visits offered by SPU.
However, Seattle residents and businesses still put 100,000 tons of food waste and compostable paper in their garbage every year. Those items could be composted instead. Examples of compostable items include all food waste such as: used tea, coffee, rice, apple cores, egg shells, bones, and vegetable scraps. And food-soiled paper such as: paper napkins, paper towels, cardboard containers (not coated with plastic), and even wooden chopsticks. (Please also refer to chart for reference.)
If these items are put in the garbage, they are taken to a landfill and buried. If those items were put in the yard waste container instead of in the garbage, they are turned into compost and returned to gardens and public parks to nourish our plants and soil.
Seattle spends $13 million annually to haul garbage to a landfill 300 miles away in Eastern Oregon (yes, it travels 300 miles to Oregon!). However, roughly one-half of what is sent to the landfill every year could have been recycled or composted instead. Putting food waste and food-soiled paper in the food waste cart and putting clean paper, cardboard, bottles, cups, jars, and cans in the recycling cart benefits everyone. By recycling and composting, the city can reduce greenhouse emissions, reduce garbage disposal costs, and create valuable products such as compost. (end)
Information for residents: seattle.gov/util/MyServices/FoodYard/ or call 206-684-3000.
Information for businesses: GreenBusiness@Seattle.gov, or call 206-343-8505.
Peggy Chapman can be reached at email@example.com.