Recycled Repast

Starting in 2009, Seattle's single-family households will be required to enroll in a food-waste recycling program.

In July, the city passed the food-scrap law as part of its ongoing effort to reduce the amount of waste that it landfills. The law does not require businesses or multi-family properties to recycle their food scraps.

Also, at least initially, the city will not inspect containers to make sure that residents are placing their food waste into the new bins instead of the regular trash cans. However, the ordinance calls for the city to study a ban on placing organics in regular trash containers once the food waste program is up and running.

Currently, Seattle's single-family households can voluntarily place certain types of food waste in their yard waste bins.

Fruits and vegetables, which already can be included in yard waste bins, along with meat and dairy products will be collected in the new food waste bins. Paper and cardboard with food remnants on them, such as pizza boxes and fast food wrappers, also will be accepted. Residents who already have yard waste bins for collection services also will be allowed to use those bins for their food waste, and residents who compost at home will be exempt from the program.

Currently, 60 percent of Seattle's single-family homes own yard waste bins and almost 10 percent compost, says Seattle City Councilman Richard Conlin.

Conlin says the program still needs to be fleshed out. Among the first steps that need to be addressed, he adds, are figuring out the rates and sizes for the containers, determining the materials to exclude from collection (besides plastic), and consulting with commercial customers and multi-family residences to structure incentives for them to recycle food waste. The city also will study making food-waste recycling mandatory for multi-family properties.

The cost of the bins will be graduated based on the size of the container. Conlin says the cost should be less than the current $5-per-month charge for yard waste bins, and that reducing the normal collection amount of regular solid waste could offset the additional cost of the bins. According to the resolution, one of the incentives to be considered is decreasing the per-unit food waste charge as the collection quantities increase for food waste recyclers. “Food waste would cost less if it's recyclable,” Conlin says.