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Seattle Public Utilities: Trash inspection is 'not a controversial program'

Wednesday, September 16, 2015   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Anne Piacentino
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Source: WasteDive
Updated after an interview with a spokesperson from Seattle Public Utilities.

Dive Brief:

  • According to Fox News, Seattle has hired nine full-time solid waste inspectors to ensure that city residents are recycling properly. But the city denies that it has made any recent hires specific to policing residents trash. Trash inspections are part of a program that has caused extreme debate regarding the ethics of "trash-snooping." 
  • The city's contracted waste haulers have been given authority to tag bins with stickers that indicate when more than 10% of residents' trash contains items that could have been recycled or composted. 14,000 residential and commercial customers have been tagged this year. 
  • Several residents have sued the city of Seattle, claiming that looking through trash to monitor recyclables is an invasion of privacy. While the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that a trash bag at the curb is not protected under the 4th Amendment of the Constitution, residents in Seattle are fighting for additional privacy protections. 

Dive Insight:

Seattle's war on waste began a few months ago when a Seattle ordinance was passed, prohibiting residents and businesses from disposing of food waste, recyclables, and compostable paper into the solid waste stream. Beginning on Jan. 1, the ordinance will call for fines ranging from $1 to $50.

While Andy Ryan of Seattle Public Utilities says that 75% of city residents were in favor of the ordinance, some residents are upset with the way the city trash haulers are handling regulation. Government training for trash haulers has called for a "zero tolerance" policy for any restricted waste in the trash, which has given trash haulers an invitation to inspect trash bags before giving out the penalties. Seattle is strongly defending this practice, and delivered a statement in July that said the ordinance "fully complies with the law, including the enhanced privacy protections afforded by the Washington Constitution."

"It is not a controversial program," Ryan told Waste Dive. "We haven't had complaints from it, except from the very small group of people who filed the lawsuit ... Residents are not fuming. 6 people out of 400,000 really is not fuming."

Ethan Blevins, attorney for the Pacific Legal Foundation, disagrees. In July, Blevins told The Washington Times, "Seattle can’t place its composting goals over the privacy and due process rights of its residents."

 Washington State Recycling Association | 545 Andover Park W, Ste 209, Tukwila, WA 98188 | 206.244.0311 |

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