Proposal could force Seattle businesses to be even more green

SEATTLE -- Seattle businesses could be forced to be more green as the city is looking to add glass, plastic and certain metals to the list of things businesses must recycle.

If you live in Seattle, you're required to recycle those things... so the question became, why not businesses too?

For Ivar's CEO Bob Donegan, if Seattle's newly proposed recycling ordinance passes, it'd be a piece of cake for his restaurants because they've been doing it for years.

"We live and work in Seattle," Donegan said. "It's part of our DNA here."

For others like Hale's Ales in Ballard, general manager Phil O'Brien says he'd have to adjust to being told to recycle or else.

"'I'm not big on being required to do something," he said, adding his restaurant does recycle and compost.

The proposed ordinance would force thousands of Seattle businesses, from restaurants to law firms, to add aluminum, tin, plastic and glass to the list of things they must recycle like paper and cardboard.

"Well, I just think it's a responsible thing to do," said Seattle city councilmember Jean Godden, who proposed the ordinance Thursday.

According to Seattle Public Utilities, her plan would save small and large restaurants an average $55 a month, medium-sized retail stores $116 a month, and the largest companies more than $1,500 a month.

But there are also serious questions about how the city would enforce the new rule. A public utilities spokesperson says they only have one recycling inspector on staff who also handles residential recycling. And what about keeping tabs on big box stores that churn out more recyclables than anyone else?

"It's true, it will take a little bit of adjustment in the beginning," Godden said.

Godden adds her ordinance is more about teaching than handing-out fines, and many big box stores in Seattle say they already recycle the items on Godden's list.

But if a company refused to comply after the ordinance passed, fines wouldn't be levied for 18 months. Right now, the city averages about 30 fines a year.