I love this headline:

Seattle, Whatcha Gonna Do When the Trash Police Come for You?

Yes, Seattle, that progressive heaven, now has trash police, who are supposed to check the garbage to make sure it is in compliance with new city rules. As Kevin Williamson of National Review describes it:

The geniuses who govern the city of Seattle have passed a law mandating that no more than 10 percent of the garbage produced by any household, multifamily dwelling, or business be composed of material that is recyclable or compostable. At the moment, violators are receiving warning tags on their garbage, but in January they’ll start receiving fines. The fines are not really punitive — at $1 per violation for individuals and $50 for businesses, they’re more a form of harassment.

The people who collect garbage make the decision on the spot and there is no appeal. Good reason to bake your garbage estimator person some holiday cookies, no?

Williamson compares judging the exact percentage of recyclable or compostable material in someone's garbage to solving the problem of the percentage of green jelly beans in a jar, which would be called a "Fermi question" because it is actually rather difficult:   

Naturally, you’re wondering whether Seattle’s city fathers have sent the city’s garbage men to a seminar on solving Fermi questions. It is, after all, the trash-collectors, along with a team of special agents tasked with running down composting violators (one wonders whether that is a red notice or a black notice on the Interpol system), who are empowered to make judgments about the constitution of trash hauls and to issue fines. Strangely, this is not the case; those familiar with such training as has been undertaken to meet the challenge of outlaw garbage have been told, essentially, “Use your best judgment,” and try to visually divide any given quantum of garbage into tenths. This approach to the non-compost menace is non compos mentis.

The Pacific Legal Foundation is taking on Seattle's "garbage Gestapo" with a two-pronged campaign, Williamson reports. One is that the state has strong privacy laws that prohibit the search without a warrant of a private citizen's garbage, and the second is that there is no way to challenge a garbage collector's assessment. You pays up, and that is it.

There is no way to call them to account,” says Ethan Blevins, a fellow at Pacific Legal. “Residents lack any means of challenging the guestimate. However laudable recycling or composting is, the state constitution puts clear limits on government’s abilities when it comes to enforcing these laws with regard to privacy rights.

“However laudable” brings up a good question. There is no evidence that this sort of household-level recycling (as opposed to mass automated recycling in industrial facilities) actually provides any meaningful environmental benefit, once all the involved energy expenditures are accounted for. Progressives are forever preening about their commitment to science, but curbside recycling is little if anything more than ritual.

The good people of Seattle ought to think twice before giving up their constitutionally guaranteed privacy rights in order to satisfy the liturgical requirements of the Right Reverend Moonbeam Birkenstock and the Holy-Rollin’ Compost Choir.

The progressive mind has an addiction to phony precision: Seattle’s 90 percent recyclable-free garbage, Barack Obama’s $2,500 average reduction in annual health-insurance premiums, Paul Krugman’s serial predictions of an imminent euro collapse (eleven of them by Niall Ferguson’s counting) based on the very best and most precise economic data, pretty much everything Vox has ever published, etc.

The euro is still there, and health-insurance premiums have gone up, rather than down, in the Obamacare era. If Seattle wants to enact a 90-percent standard, then Seattle should be made to enforce a 90-percent standard — i.e., the garbage cops should be made to weigh the garbage — rather than rely on guestimates. And if Seattle wants to make garbage guestimates for the purposes of prosecution, Seattle should get a warrant.