Seattleites like it to be known that they’re concerned with the environment and making changes to improve the way we dispose of waste. It’s the whole “actually doing it” thing that gets us into trouble.
To be fair, it’s more of a confusion issue than a neglectful one.
A 2014 policy enacted by the Seattle City Council made it mandatory for Seattle residents to compost food waste and compostable paper separately from trash. Trash collectors would be keeping a watchful eye for anyone not doing so and a $1 fine per can would be enacted for rulebreakers. Enforcing that rule became a bit of a sticky wicket earlier this year when Washington State’s Superior Court ruled it was unconstitutional for trash collectors to “visually inspect” residential garbage bags as a violation of privacy (to be fair, the city never actually handed out any fines to begin with). So, the city and the residents are left with an understanding that you should compost but we can’t stop you if you don’t.
That said, in an effort to do their part, well-meaning Seattleites are putting too many non-biodegradable produce bags in their compost bins, which is damaging the city’s composting machines. The costs involved add up so the city council is going back to the drawing board with a potential new color system to make it easier for people to know which bag is compostable and which bag is not.
Part of the problem, according to Sego Jackson at Seattle Public Utilities, is that companies present their products as being compostable when they aren’t.
"People are confused about what's compostable and what is not. They are given bags that are tinted green, they used the words eco and bio, they have leaves and trees and symbols on them, and many of the public thinks that this means all bags are compostable, but they are not."
So the City Council plans to establish a color system for produce bags, under a proposed ordinance. Any compostable bag from a grocery store or restaurant would need to be green or brown. Any non-compostable bag must be a different color.
Along with this potential change, the council is also considering whether or not to make the five cent fee for paper bag usage permanent. The
The proposed measure would also make the five cent fee for paper bags permanent. That fee was supposed to expire at the end of the year.