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Should King County be rummaging through your trash?

What would you do if you looked out your window one night and saw two guys rummaging through your trash with flashlights?

That’s the question KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson asked after hearing about some trashy business in King County. It’s a sight that one woman in Kenmore said she recently saw out her window after two guys got out of a truck.

“It wasn’t even a marked truck, it was a rental truck,” Dori said. “She sees a couple guys get out of it, it’s dark out, they have flashlights, they start looking through her garbage can.”

Lawsuit filed over Seattle’s trash ordinance

It turns out, as Q13 reports, King County is conducting a study of its trash customers to find out how likely people are to put their food waste into the trash can, instead of into the yard-waste bin. A King County official told Q13 that they don’t tell the customers they were coming because they didn’t want people to change their habits.

The study, called Residential Cart Tagging Project, actually began in November 2015.

“I’m sorry, this is idiotic,” said Drew Barth, a colleague on The Dori Monson Show. “There’s tax dollars being spent on this?!”

“I should have the freedom to throw away whatever I want,” he said.

Seattle’s trash experience

Public officials going through residents’ trash is not new to the Northwest. Seattle recently lost a legal battle over a very similar situation.

A King County superior court judge determined that it was unconstitutional for garbage collectors to look through trash bins to determine if people were properly separating their recycling, food waste and trash. Eight parties sued the city over the policy.

In Seattle’s case, there was a fine if people weren’t properly separating their trash – that was before the court ruling. In King County, however, it’s merely a study to determine how many reminders people need before they start changing habits and properly separating their waste.

With the King County study, employees place tags on bins as a reminder to properly separate. While it’s just a study, it does sound familiar to Seattle’s former policy of issuing warning tags for customers who did not properly separate their waste, before eventually fining them. No fines were ever issued in Seattle.

King County’s study is slated to continue until March 2017.

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