By Mike Pomranz
Updated April 28, 2016
compost, garbage,Seattle
Credit: © Martin Poole/Getty Images

Most of us want to do right by the environment, but just how far should a city go to make sure we’re handling our trash properly? A judge in Washington state recently ruled that getting garbage men to root through waste bins to make sure Seattle residents are doing all the composting they can is crossing a very smelly line.

According to The Washington Times, King County Superior Court Judge Beth M. Andrus (pardon the pun) threw out part of a Seattle city ordinance allowing for inspections of people’s garbage to make sure they are following a residential food waste ban. The ban itself was not changed.

“This ruling does not prohibit the city from banning food waste and compostable paper in SPU-provided garbage cans,” the injunction stated. “It merely renders invalid the provisions of the ordinance and rule that authorize a warrantless search of residents’ garbage cans when there is no applicable exception to the warrant requirement, such as the existence of prohibited items in plain view.”

The ordinance, as it was originally written, required garbage men to use “visual inspection” to determine if more than ten percent of trash was made up of recyclable items or food waste. The lawyer behind the lawsuit against the city, Ethan Blevins, considered that unconstitutional. “Seattle can’t place its composting goals over the privacy rights of its residents,” he was quoted as saying.

Of course, residents should still continue to recycle and compost. But on the bright side, Seattle residents no longer have to worry about their garbage men seeing all the disgusting things they’ve tossed away.