In a lawsuit filed against the city of Seattle on Thursday, a group of residents is arguing that their privacy rights are being violated under a recently launched initiative that calls for garbage collectors to check people’s trash cans for items such as food scraps and recyclables.
City rules that went into effect in January in Seattle prohibit residents and businesses from disposing of food scraps and compostable paper in their garbage. Since then, the city’s two contracted garbage haulers have been issuing warning tags if food and yard waste, or recyclables, appear to make up more than 10 percent of the contents in a customer’s trash bin.
“A person has a legitimate expectation that the contents of his or her garbage cans will remain private and free from government inspection when placed curbside for collection,” the complaint states.
The Pacific Legal Foundation filed the suit in King County Superior Court on behalf of seven residents, and one woman who lived in Seattle until March.
According to the complaint, the city provided training for garbage collectors that included instructions to inspect residential trash bins “by moving bags, to open bags that are not securely tied, to look into the contents of translucent or transparent bags, and to exploit tears in sealed opaque bags to inspect their contents.”