Green Your Plate

Meredith Grey, the whiney and perpetually unhappy Seattle surgeon who is the eponymous protagonist of the hit television series “Grey's Anatomy,” may soon have something else to complain about: being forced to recycle her table scraps.

Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels recently unveiled a proposal that would require single-family households in the city to recycle their food waste, starting in 2009. City workers would not collect the trash of residents who do not place food waste in the specified bins, according to a report in the Seattle Times newspaper. Apartment complexes, restaurants and grocery stores would not have to recycle such material.

In 2005, the city began offering single-family homes a voluntary food-waste recycling program.

Nickels' proposal, which requires approval by the City Council to become law, also would direct municipal personnel to study the feasibility of banning the use of Styrofoam products and plastics in certain types of packaging, media reports say.

Seattle residents are no strangers to mandated recycling. In 2006, the city began enforcing the recycling of certain materials by — sound familiar? — threatening to not pick up the trash of homes that fail to do so. Businesses and multi-family property are subject to fines.

The food-waste proposal comes amid a push by Nickels and city officials to dramatically boost the city's recycling rate, which, according to the Seattle Times, currently stands at 44 percent. The mayor has set a goal of reaching 60 percent in five years and 70 percent by 2025.

Some may scoff at such an ambitious plan, but, overall, the mayor's aggressive attempt to divert more waste from landfills is admirable. That's not to say the plan is perfect. For instance, it would make more sense to require large food-waste generators such as restaurants to also recycle the material. Perhaps that will come later.

Still, as the nation's population grows and space for new disposal sites continues to shrink, governments simply must think of ways to extend the life of sites already in operation — even if it means that we might have to endure yet another whinefest from Dr. Grey.

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The author is the editor of Waste Age