“Overreach” by “trash-sorting police.”
That’s how the Chicago Tribune, in a wry but reflective editorial today, describes Seattle’s nosy new practice of rifling through people’s garbage to enforce its food waste ban.
From their iconic tower near Lake Michigan, the Trib editors give a shout-out to PLF and our legal challenge to city snooping near Puget Sound: “Lawyers for the Pacific Legal Foundation argue that Seattle is trashing citizens’ privacy rights in its zeal to make sure food scraps are in their proper receptacle.”
To the “greener-than-green” leaders of the Emerald City, the editorial board from the Windy City urges a sense of proportion: “We support recycling, and our bins fill quickly and often. But if a nonrecyclable strays into the recycling, we don’t consider it a crime.”
Seattle officials have tried to put a lid on the controversy by claiming that trash bags aren’t actually opened; in essence, they say, “nothing to see here, move along.” The Tribune editors respond with some facts: “Pacific Legal Foundation’s Brian Hodges tells us that training documents his office has obtained show that Seattle ‘instructs trash collectors to lift bags to search deeper areas of the cans, open untied bags, peer through tears in opaque bags, and look at the contents of clear or translucent bags.’ ”
PLF’s clients — eight average folks who undoubtedly speak for thousands of their fellow Seattleites — would surely second the editorial’s pithy summary of these intrusive new trash-sifting protocols: “Ick.”
PLF’s lawsuit relies on privacy and due process guarantees specific to the Washington Constitution. But the broad principle we seek to promote — that in a free society, government has no business acting like a busybody — strikes a chord with Americans everywhere, and we’re encouraged by the hat tip from the venerable Trib.