Mariners Help Seattle Lead Nation in Restaurant Composting and Recycling
SEATTLE — Beginning July 1, Seattle will become the first city in the nation where all single-use food service ware must be either compostable or recyclable — and none goes to the landfill! That's the day all the throw-away food containers that now get tossed in the waste can at popular fast food restaurants will go into new bins for compostable and recyclable food service ware.
This new system means that every year Seattle will stop sending 6,000 tons of plastic and plastic-coated paper food service ware to the landfill. That's almost 225 shipping containers of waste, a garbage train more than 100 cars long that will no longer leave Seattle.
Among the Seattle businesses leading the way toward a zero waste future are the Seattle Mariners, who are early adopters of the City's 100 percent composting/recycling mandate for food serviceware. This season, after a year of preparation, Safeco Field food venues have switched to compostable products for their single use service ware and are providing customers with new bins where they can deposit compostable and recyclable service ware and containers when they finish their meals.
During the team's first six games this year, fans generated 59.4 tons of solid waste — an amazing 75.9 percent of which (45.2 tons) will go to Cedar Grove Composting or will be recycled.
"Last year we recycled 38 percent of our waste stream. Switching to all compostable service ware has enabled us to turn most garbage containers in the ballpark into compost containers. We now have our sights on a recycling rate of over 70 percent and further reducing our waste costs," said Scott Jenkins, Vice President of Ballpark Operations for the Seattle Mariners.
Seattle's new July 1 composting requirements follow a ban last year (Jan. 1, 2009) on plastic foam - often called Styrofoam - food service ware. The city banned restaurant use of Styrofoam products because the foamed plastic breaks apart, blows around as litter and ends up in our waterways and the world's oceans as a hazard to marine life - which mistake it for food.
Seattle elected officials made the decision to switch from landfilling plastic and plastic-coated paper food packaging in mid-2008 in order to cut down on green house gas generation. Local composting of food waste and compostable paper and food service packaging always means less green house gas generation than occurs when organic materials decompose in a landfill. Recycling of other paper and plastic food service products means new products can be made using less energy and with less green house gas generation.
In the coming weeks, customers in Seattle restaurants should see more and more compost and recycling bins — and smaller garbage bins — when they go out for lunch at a food court or quick meal.
Some recyclable food service ware such as hot beverage cups will join the stream of mixed waste paper recycling to be made into new paper products.
In North America only San Francisco and Toronto, Ontario, have programs similar to Seattle's promoting the use of compostable single-use food service ware. Neither is as comprehensive. In the region, Issaquah has recently enacted an ordinance similar to Seattle's, banning the use of Styrofoam in food service (Oct. 1) and requiring compostable and recyclable alternatives beginning next year (May 1, 2011).
In Europe, general regulation of packaging reduces the amount of single-use food service ware in the waste stream but does not mandate a universal switch to compostable or recyclable alternatives as Seattle's regulations does.
The City's requirements are simple and comprehensive. All single-use food service products, those meant to be thrown away after one use, must be either compostable or recyclable by July 1. Fast food restaurants and coffee shops where customers finish their meals and beverages on-site must provide containers where patrons can discard the compostable or recyclable leftovers, including, of course, leftover food.
Learn more about Seattle Public Utilities, at: http://www.seattle.gov/util and more about the new program for food service produces here: http://www.resourceventure.org/foodpluscompostables.
Follow SPU on Twitter: www.twitter.com/SeattleSPU.
In addition to providing a reliable water supply to more than 1.3 million customers in the Seattle metropolitan area, SPU provides essential sewer, drainage, solid waste and engineering services that safeguard public health, maintain the City's infrastructure and protect, conserve and enhance the region's environmental resources.
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