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Seattle residents who fail to separate food waste from trash will be fined.

The City Council voted this week to impose the fines for not composting.

When the ordinance goes into effect next year, homeowners found with food scraps in their trash will be fined $1 for each violation. The fine is up to $50 for a business or apartment complex.

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Seattle Public Utilities estimates that about a third to one-half of what now goes in the trash should be recycled or put in compost bins.

The new law is aimed to help Seattle reach its goal of having a recycling rate of 60 per cent by 2015. The change is expected to generate an additional 38,000 tons of compost material every year.

San Francisco also has a mandatory composting ordinance.

Currently, residents of single-family homes in Seattle are encouraged but not required to dispose of food waste and some paper products in compost bins, The Seattle Times reported. Apartment buildings must have compost bins available, but residents of apartment buildings aren't required to use them. Businesses aren't subject to any composting requirements,

Under the new rules, collectors will take a look when they dump trash into a garbage truck. If they see more than 10 per cent of the trash should be composted, they'll enter the violation into a computer and leave a ticket on the bin that says expect a $1 fine on the next garbage bill.

Collectors will begin tagging garbage bins with warnings Jan. 1. Fines start until July 1.

Seattle Public Utilities asked the council to consider the ordinance because the agency is falling short of its recycling and composting goals. The council vote was 9-to-0. No public hearing was required.

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