Citizens will have to face fines if they fail to properly sort food out of their garbage, according to a new Seattle law.
Violators will be fined anywhere from $1-$50 starting July, CNSNews.com reported. However until then, the Seattle government has decided to publicly shame the residents of their city by attaching bright red 'Scarlet Letter'-like citation tags onto the garbage bags, which is being described as a "public education campaign."
Since existing stringent laws have been unable to meet the city's recycling and reduction goals, this new law, whose ultimate goal is to boost composting while reducing greenhouse gases, went into effect on Jan. 1.
"I'm sure neighbors are going to see these on their other neighbors' cans," said Rodney Watkins, a lead driver for Recology CleanScapes, a waste contractor for the city.
The new city law, a first of its kind in the nation, will make it illegal for homeowners to dispose food into trash cans, a measure that will eventually help the government keep food out of landfills. Although both San Francisco and Vancouver mandate composting, they don't penalize the harsh fines on homeowners directly.
"Food waste is both an economic and environmental burden. Transporting the waste, especially for distances as far as Seattle does, is costly. So too is allowing it to sit out in the open, where it produces methane, one of the most harmful greenhouses gases, as it rots," according to Hot Air. "The second largest component of landfills in the United States is organic waste, and landfills are the single largest source of methane gas."
Currently, every family in the city throws away some 400 pounds of food each year, according to the estimates of Seattle Public Utilities.
If a household's garbage has more than 10 percent food, it will earn a bright red tag notifying the homeowner of the infraction, according to Watkins, whose working on the front lines to enforce these rules.
"Right now, I'm tagging probably every fifth can," he told NPR. "I don't know if that's just the holidays, or the fact that I'm actually paying a lot more attention."
"You can see all the oranges and coffee grounds," he continued, raising one lid. "All that makes great compost. You can put that in your compost bin and buy it back next year in a bag and put it in your garden."
Meanwhile since the city's consumer recycling capabilities are pretty high-tech, with machines to separate paper, glass and plastic, Seattle will also start issuing fines for too much recyclable materials mixed in the trash from July.