Good Question: Can you be fined for not recycling?

February 28, 2017 06:44 AM

Technically you are breaking local laws when you don't recycle, but has anyone ever been fined for not doing so? Should they?

If you get caught speeding, you get fined. If you litter you can also be fined. But when it comes to another law some people break all of the time, there is no punishment at all.

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"Right now neither the state nor Ontario County has any penalty clauses for not recycling.  It is more a voluntary compliance program," says Thomas Harvey, Director of Planning for Ontario County.

One city in our state can and does issue fines for not recycling, New York City. Residents have faced fines there but the majority of punishments are for big violators like owners of businesses, and large apartment buildings.

In our area, haulers can be fined for not sorting but that rarely happens. As for homeowners, even if the state wanted to issue fines, it would be difficult.

Taney: How would you even enforce something like that?

Harvey: Great question, we're not going to send the Sheriff to inspect trash

The city of Seattle tried this. They had haulers inspect trash. Those haulers would report homeowners who were not following the rules and fines would be issued. That law was found to be unconstitutional and later struck down by the courts. 

Some communities in our area are looking at "shaming" homeowners who do not recycle.

Harvey: They will tag your garbage can with a warning-- so all of your neighbors know you did not recycle.

Taney: But that's not happening here?

Harvey: That is something we'll take a look at and see if that's something we want to implement here.

Ontario County is in the process of reviewing and possibly changing its Solid Waste policy.

If you suspect your hauler is not recycling when they visit your home, you can report them by calling your county's Solid Waste Department, but don't call to report your neighbor. Currently, there's nothing that can be done locally.


Pat Taney

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