Unless you're a full-on PNW stereotype who's obsessed with recycling rules, you may have been assuming for a while now that everyone's following the same recycling rules—single-family homes, multi-family apartment buildings, offices and restaurants. Turns out, there's been a pretty big loophole in recycling requirements for Seattle Public Utilities' commercial customers: They only have to recycle paper and cardboard. A new bill put forth by the city council's utility committee chair Jean Godden would see to it that commercial customers are soon prohibited from throwing away recyclable glass, plastic bottles and jars, and aluminum or tin cans.

Says Godden by e-mail today, "Seattle is a national leader when it comes to recycling, and many people have been shocked to learn that businesses aren't already required to recycle their aluminum and glass." While businesses can save money by recycling (which is free for the first 190 gallons and cheaper than garbage after that*) and composting (which is also cheaper than garbage), there's still likely to be some noncompliance, not least of which because lots of small family businesses and restaurants are run by people who work 15-hour days, don't exactly read government websites for fun, and may have language or cultural barriers.

The city knows that, and Godden noted in the meeting today that along with the new requirements will come a doubling of SPU's budget for business outreach and education, from $75,000 a year to $150,000. They're gonna be light with the enforcement stick at first, focusing more on outreach. "My goal," Godden says, "is to see zero citations because all businesses will recognize that this is the right thing to do." And also because they will have had effective notice (in the right language) and interactions with the city about how to comply.

If they can pull this off, Godden says, the impact could be big. "Imagine a train stretching from Century Link Field to the Sculpture Park along the Seattle waterfront," she posits, I assume getting a little misty-eyed at the thought. "That train is over 200 shipping containers, 1.5 miles, long, filled with recyclable material that annually is not diverted and ends up in a landfill. That is the potential for the business recycling legislation."

Well then. Love your mother earth, etc. The legislation will get a committee vote in two weeks next week, then head to full council. If passed, it'll go into effect next year.

*That used to say "free," which it turns out is not correct.