April 23, 2015 / 7:51 PM / 3 years ago

Seattle suspends plan to fine residents over food scraps in garbage

SEATTLE (Reuters) - Seattle has suspended plans to fine homeowners who fail to comply with the city’s food waste composting program, which has seen early success but also a lack of awareness over the rules, a public utility official said on Thursday.

The West Coast city, seeking to reduce greenhouse gas emissions linked to climate change, last year became the second major U.S. city after San Francisco to pass a law prohibiting most food or food scraps from being disposed of in residential and commercial garbage.

The city authorized a plan to impose a $1 fine on residents each time they filled a significant portion of their home garbage with compostable waste, such as food scraps and paper products. Repeat offenders could have seen the fine increase to $50.

Public utility workers had been putting warning tags on garbage bins at residences putting too many eggshells, tea bags and pizza crusts in the regular trash and not a special, green composting bin.

But the fines, which would have taken effect in July, have been suspended through 2015 to give residents a chance to learn the recycling rules that took effect with the law on Jan. 1 that would have imposed fines for food waste, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray said on Wednesday.

“Seattle is only weeks into our nation-leading program, and it looks like we are well on our way to achieving 38,000 additional tons of compost per year, our goal for year three of the program,” Murray said in a statement.

Up to 40 percent of food purchased in the United States is thrown out, according to the National Resource Defense Council.

Discarded food and organic matter sent to regular landfills generate methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, during decomposition, the council said. Composting turns organic matter into nutrient-rich soil, reducing waste sent to landfills.

Seattle has a goal of recycling 60 percent of municipal solid waste, which is above the national average, Seattle Public Utilities spokesman Andy Ryan said.

A mid-March survey by Seattle Public Utilities found that 71 percent of residents were aware of the new composting law, prompting Murray to call for further education

Reporting by Eric M. Johnson in Seattle; Editing by Peter Cooney

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