Fines for putting food scraps in the trash won’t take effect in Seattle until 2016, Mayor Ed Murray says. The start date was supposed to be July 1.
The fines that Seattle officials said residents could face beginning in July for dumping compostable items like food scraps into garbage bins and dumpsters will be put off, Mayor Ed Murray announced Wednesday.
Murray said he’s suspending the start date for the fines from July until at least 2016 because the new emphasis on composting is working better than expected and because some people in the city need more time to learn the rules.
In September, when the City Council approved a law requiring that compost be disposed of in compost bins only, Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) estimated the move would eventually generate 38,000 tons a year in additional compost.
SPU launched an outreach effort in January but initially held off on the fines — $1 for single-family homes and $50 for businesses and apartment buildings. Violators have been getting notices on their garbage bins and letters from the city.
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Four months later, the agency is on track to collect an additional 19,000 tons of compostables in 2015, and officials believe there’s a good chance that Seattle will divert 60 percent of its waste away from landfills through composting and recycling this year.
Murray described that progress as good enough to warrant further delaying the fines, saying 19,000 tons of organic material is equivalent to 380 railroad cars.
“That’s three whole trains. Instead of going to landfills it’s being converted into compost that can be used in your garden.”
In mid-March, an SPU survey found that 71 percent of people in the city know about the new law. That’s impressive, said agency spokesman Andy Ryan.
“It looks like people are getting it without the fines,” he said. “But then there’s the question of the other 29 percent who aren’t aware. Is it fair to fine people who don’t know about it yet?”
SPU has so far focused on educating the public through advertisements and news pieces. Now the agency will try to determine whether it needs to do more to reach certain populations within the city, Ryan said.
It also will send mailers to homes, partner with community groups and leave fliers on garbage bins and dumpsters.
Officials have said all along that the city’s garbage collectors won’t be aggressive with the fines and that the point of the new law isn’t to raise revenue.