Phillip Elden is the Conservation Director and co-founder of Native Oregon, a conservation group committed to protecting Oregon’s native wildlife and forests.
Q: Why has Seattle enacted a law that imposes fines on residents for putting food in their trash?
Phillip Elden: A Seattle ordinance requiring curbside food-waste collection was passed in 2005 with a ten year goal to recycle and compost sixty percent of waste. With the dawn of 2015, Seattle was falling short of its goal. Seattle officials decided it was time to take measures to ensure the public complied with the regulation.
Q: But a fine for putting dirty napkins and food boxes in the trash, isn’t that a little severe?
Phillip Elden: Not when you consider the consequences not enforcing the regulation has for environment and taxpayers. The amount of refuse the city delivers to landfills is costly and the greenhouse-gas the waste discharges into the atmosphere is detrimental to the environment. This new ordinance is an attempt to reduce both. The fines levied are done so as an added incentive to citizens who aren’t complying with the rule.
Q: How does the city plan to enforce this ordinance?
Phillip Elden: The city’s garbage collectors have started tagging cans that aren’t in compliance with the law. Currently, the tags are just a notice, but in July 2015 residents who put food particles in the trash will be required to pay one dollar for each violation.
Fines for commercial buildings will be higher.
Q: A dollar isn’t much of a fine; do you think it will deter people?
Phillip Elden: It isn’t the amount of the fine that is important. It isn’t even about bringing revenue to the city. The intent is to make people stop and think about what they are doing. Taking care of our environment for future generations is the ultimate objective.