No fines for Seattle businesses violating recycling law



SEATTLE - Documents reveal that inspectors have not enforced Seattle's recycling law in seven years.

Nate Bolden, the lead recycling inspector for Seattle Public Utilities, said that the city's three inspectors try to ensure that dumpsters don't contain more than 10 percent recyclables or yard waste.

If an inspector finds a dumpster in violation of this rule, a tag will be placed on it or a postcard will be sent in the mail. The inspector will then check back in a couple of weeks.

A second violation prompts a letter. A third is supposed to bring a $50 fine.

"There are about 9,000 businesses in Seattle," said Tim Croll, solid waste director for Seattle Public Utilities. "We get about a quarter of them per year. We cycle through them."

In other words, each business has been checked once every three or four years since the law went into effect in 2006.

And, in those seven years, no citations have been issued. Not one Seattle business has been fined $50 for what has been left in dumpsters.


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One Seattle business that has had trouble grasping the city's recycling ordinance is Best Buy.

The city has sent numerous letters to the Best Buy store in Northgate, but it has never been fined.

Fremont resident Mary Gilliam, who is vigilant about recycling at her home, said that she was disappointed to hear the city doesn't pursue recycling violations more.

She would like to see businesses held accountable.

"They should really look into it more, do something, and take action," Gilliam said.

Heather Trim with Zero Waste Seattle would like to see that too.

"Our goal is to have as few train cars as possible going to the landfill," Trim said.

The city has favored education over enforcement.

"They don't have a lot of money for officers," Trim said. "So they haven't done as much (enforcement) as we'd like to see."

Croll admitted that it might be time to start issuing citations.

"We're right where we wanted to be when we started this," Croll said. "Now the question is, OK what do we have left in the garbage, do we want to turn it up a few notches or not?"