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Seattle's Garbage-Checking Ordinance Deemed 'Unconstitutional'

A King County Superior Court judge has deemed the city's food waste ordinance to be "unconstitutional" and issued an injunction stopping it immediately

Back in January 2015, Seattle enacted a new ordinance that made it illegal to to throw away compostable food waste in your garbage can. That included not only foodstuffs but also pizza boxes, napkins, and paper towels, to name a few. How did the city plan on enforcing the rule? By letting garbage workers go through people's trash cans to determine if there was a significant amount of wasteful items included. If so, a $1 fine on the next garbage bill was to be enforced for homeowners and $50 fine for businesses.

Some folks in Seattle put up a bit of a stink about the whole thing, citing that it was an invasion of privacy for a city worker to rummage through their personal trash. Now, a King County Superior Court judge is agreeing with them and has deemed the practice "unconstitutional." An injunction has been issued forcing the immediate stoppage of enforcement.

Among the many reasons given for the change, judge Beth Andrus cited the inefficient and improbably way that Seattle could determine if someone had broken the ordinance.

SPU says garbage cans with more than 10 percent by volume of food waste would be tagged, and that this could be done by "visual inspection."

The judge wrote in her decision, "The city could not explain how inspectors can compute the 10 percent limit without searching through a resident’s garbage bags."

Seattle may appeal the decision, but will have to provide specific arguments to determine what "significant amounts" of food waste are and how that can be properly determined without violating personal rights.
· Judge: Seattle trash-check ordinance ‘unconstitutional’ [ST]
· Going Green [CS]