In Seattle, wasting food will now earn you a scarlet letter — well, a scarlet tag, to be more accurate.
The bright red tag, posted on a garbage bin, tells everyone who sees it that you’ve violated a new city law that makes it illegal to put food into trash cans.
“I’m sure neighbors are going to see these on their other neighbors’ cans,” says Rodney Watkins, a lead driver for Recology CleanScapes, a waste contractor for the city. He’s on the front lines of enforcing these rules.
Seattle is the first city in the nation to fine homeowners for not properly sorting their garbage. The law took effect on Jan. 1 as a bid to keep food out of landfills. Other cities like San Francisco and Vancouver mandate composting, but don’t penalize homeowners directly.
As Watkins made the rounds in Maple Leaf, a residential neighborhood of Seattle, earlier this month, he appeared disheartened to find an entire red velvet cake in someone’s trash bin. Any household with more than 10 percent food in its garbage earns a bright red tag notifying it of the infraction.