Seattle Council member Richard Conlin wants the city’s garbage—preferably in a recycle bin as opposed to a landfill.
Conlin is looking at actions to increase Seattle’s 44 percent recycling rate to 75 percent by 2015. Zero waste is the ultimate goal for the chair of City Council’s Environment, Emergency Management and Utilities Committee, which held a public comment meeting on June 7.
Possible actions could include fining Seattleites for throwing away recyclables—or a tax on plastic bags, if one local group gets its way.
“Bags are one of the most egregious examples of environmental waste in our society,” says Justin Rolfe-Redding of Seattle BYOB (Bring Your Own Bag), an environmental advocacy group. “Their lifespan is incredibly short, and that’s what makes it egregious.” He says that the bags are produced from oil and can take thousands of years to decompose in landfills.
Seattle BYOB wants City Council to impose a tax on plastic bags such as those used by grocery stores. A similar measure in Ireland reportedly decreased disposable bag-use by 90 percent in less than a decade. Seattle uses 444 plastic bags every minute, according to BYOB. Only 1 percent of the bags are recycled, says the group.
“Instead of banning bags, charging money for them brings it to our behavioral aspect—the true environmental cost becomes more evident,” says Rolfe-Redding. The tax would run as much as 25 cents a bag.
Conlin’s committee is expected to vote on recycling proposals on June 26.