200 West Seattle homes in ‘One Less Truck’ biweekly trash test

(UPDATED Wednesday morning with additional information from Seattle Public Utilities)

(Click to see full-size map, as PDF)
ORIGINAL 11:56 PM TUESDAY REPORT: 200 homes in Highland Park will only get trash pickup every two weeks, for six months, starting in July. You might have heard about the city’s “One Less Truck” pilot program, to see if every-other-week pickup will work (explained here); tonight, we learned that part of West Seattle will be in the program. Carl Woestwin of Seattle Public Utilities made the announcement during the WS Crime Prevention Council meeting tonight (though trash pickup has nothing to do with the group’s usual scope). The area affected is bounded by SW Barton on the north, SW Roxbury to the south, 15th SW to the west, and 11th SW to the east.

Woestwin says homes from single-family through fourplexes in the area will be required to participate, and will get a $100 stipend for their trouble. All the affected homes have been notified via letters and/or flyers, he said. They can choose to get larger trash containers, or try to see if they can make it work, and that’s what the experiment is for. Woestwin said that the city estimates changing to every-other-week pickup could save $6 million citywide. This part of Highland Park is the only test area in West Seattle and one of only four citywide; a community meeting is planned in early June (he wasn’t sure of the date – we’ll seek confirmation Wednesday) and then SPU will come back to the neighborhood in September “to find out how they’re going.”

ADDED 11:25 AM: We followed up this morning with SPU, whose Brett Stav provided some information, including the FAQ they have put together (apparently, though, it is not on their website, because, he says, “We’re trying to keep the study as scientific as possible and avoid confusing our non-participating customers, so we haven’t broadly advertised this project outside of the participating neighborhoods”) and the rate card for participants – read on:

First, the rates. Here’s the rate card (PDF) that has been mailed to the participating households, according to Stav. Note that if a participant already have one of the smallest trash containers, the rate reduction during the six-month experiment is small – a one-dollar reduction from the $17 monthly rate for “microcan” users” – but those with the largest container, 96 gallons, will see their monthly rates more than halved (from $84 to $39).

Second, here’s the FAQ:

What is this “One Less Truck Project” that the Seattle City Council is considering?

The Seattle City Council has asked Seattle Public Utilities to conduct a six-month study of the effects of every-other-week garbage collection among 800 single-family homes in Seattle.

What are the benefits of every-other-week garbage collection?

Seattle Public Utilities estimates that citywide every-other-week garbage collection will reduce waste sent to the landfill, increase recycling, reduce noise, air and traffic pollution, and save $6.4 million on Seattle’s annual garbage system collection costs.

When will this project begin?

The six-month project will start on July 1, 2012, and end on December 31, 2012.

Where will this project take place? How will these areas be chosen?

Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) will choose approximately 800 households in four areas of the city that closely reflect Seattle’s overall demographic population. SPU staff chose pilot areas with several considerations in mind, including geography, age, income, race and garbage-service level that best reflect the city’s overall makeup. By making the pilot program representative of diverse Seattle residents, SPU will be able to accurately observe what would happen if the entire city switched to every-other-week garbage collection.

One Less Truck Project areas include:
30th Ave NE to 35th Ave NE/NE 85th St. to NE 90th St.
31st Ave S to 34th Ave S/S Dearborn to S Day
Rainier Ave to 45th S/S Clover to S Kenyon 11th Ave SW to 15th SW/SW Barton to SW Roxbury

Can I opt-in to the every-other-week garbage program?

No. In order to keep the results of the program as scientific as possible, volunteers cannot be accepted.

Is leaving garbage out for two weeks sanitary?

The King County Public Health Department has approved every-other-week garbage collection. Other cities that have implemented every-other-week garbage service, including Olympia and Renton, have not found any measureable increases in odors or pests. Now that food waste is allowed in weekly curbside food and yard collection, there aren’t a lot of things left in the garbage that would cause odors.

When will the City of Seattle switch to citywide every-other-week garbage collection?

The results of this every-other-week garbage program will be used to help city officials decide whether to launch citywide every-other-week garbage collection, possibly as early as 2015.

Again, this ONLY is affecting a 200-household area in Highland Park during the July-to-January test – the only area in West Seattle that’s part of the pilot project – but its results will be reviewed, along with three similarly sized areas elsewhere in the city, to determine whether to try it citywide.

42 Replies to "200 West Seattle homes in 'One Less Truck' biweekly trash test"

  • DiverLaura May 16, 2012 (12:21 am)

    I guess it depends on how much trash folks as a household produce. We put so much in compost, yard waste and recycle that bi-weekly trash in general would be no problem. Given were are two people and a dog so families with kids could be more challenging. I think its a cool challenge, try to get people off of the landfill nipple as much as possible. the downside is people might start putting the wrong things in the other bins, but hopefully not.

  • ripper May 16, 2012 (12:50 am)

    Sounds like BS. I’d be pissed if they made me do this.

  • smokeycretin9 May 16, 2012 (5:28 am)

    Does the affected home get half off their garbage bill for the half service they will be receiving?

    Will the city charge more for a larger can like they do now?

    How does this strategy send only half the garbage to a land fill? yeah, the first week it does. People will still generate the same ammount of trash.

  • Nick May 16, 2012 (6:11 am)

    Still don’t get how I get my 100 dollars.

  • JM May 16, 2012 (6:13 am)

    I hope for the sake of those affected that they are getting new trash cans that are double the size without being charged more. I can’t imagine how bad that could be having two kids.

  • WS dweler May 16, 2012 (6:23 am)

    If they city does this all over, how about picking recycling up every week. That’s the can we have over-flowing every two weeks.

    I say garbage 2x a month, recycling/yard waste 4x a month!

  • vng May 16, 2012 (6:27 am)

    Terrible, terrible idea. I heard that they’re thinking this move will reduce the volume sent to the landfill. Huh? I don’t throw stuff in the trash so it’ll be full when the truck comes. I throw it in the trash because I can’t recycle or compost or donate it. It is what it is; now it’ll just be smellier when it’s picked up. I realize it’ll save them money, but there’s a reason so very few cities do this around the country.

  • Cheryl May 16, 2012 (6:46 am)

    There was just a piece on the news yesterday about Portland having done this & the result was a huge increase in NON-recyclable trash items going into the recycle bins, including and especially DIAPERS.
    I can imagine the same thing will happen here. And then what? We’ll have workers climbing into the paper/glass/plastic sorting machines having to clean out shredded diapers & waste from the screens. Gross!
    Bottom line, most people produce more trash than they should… And sadly, homes that have little kids (or an elderly parent) also have diapers to dispose of by the tens of dozens every week. E.g. there was a period of 3 years when I had BOTH to dispose of myself & if trash pickup had only been once every two weeks, I’d have been totally at a loss of where to put all those diapers too — and I’m good about sorting our household garbage. What about folks who aren’t? Or don’t care?
    Portland has considered fining families who don’t sort their trash &/or who put diapers into the recycle containers. But I don’t imagine that’ll work well across the board. First, how do you make people comply? And second, you can’t get blood out of a turnip, some people won’t even be able to pay.
    I don’t know what the answer is. Just thinking out loud, and predicting the inevitable I guess. Maybe the “test” homes will prove me wrong. I hope so.

  • carlton May 16, 2012 (7:09 am)

    the stink of it all..

  • LWC May 16, 2012 (7:28 am)

    Personally, I fully support this. In our two-person household, we have the smallest trash can the city offers, and still only put it on the curb every 2-3 weeks. We compost our own food waste in a back-yard worm bin, and with the ability to recycle just about everything, there’s not much left to put in the trash can.

    I’m sure people will complain that not everyone can do their own compost, the rats will come in droves, etc. etc. But all it takes is a modicum of effort on each person’s part.

  • Marlene May 16, 2012 (7:40 am)

    Not all elderly people wear diapers! How insulting!

    FWIW: I don’t believe a twice-monthly garbage pickup is the answer.

  • Bonnie May 16, 2012 (7:43 am)

    Terrible idea.

  • Brian M. May 16, 2012 (7:52 am)

    I am with @ws dweler! I think that folks have been a lot more diligent in recycling. So much so, that I think a weekly pickup of recycling is needed. The only reason that I come close to filling my garbage is when my recycling is overflowing, and I need a place to put my other recycleables. I really don’t want to do this, and I realize I risk the ire of others by admitting to it. However, more frequent recycling pickups would reduce the need for a weekly garbage pickup, and it would further encourage better behavior!

  • wellil May 16, 2012 (7:58 am)

    Even though I completely agree with this program I think the problem with non-recyclables going in the recycling is a very good point to bring up. If SPU is being smart in the planning maybe they’ve already allowed for an increase in “picking” and it still saves money.
    It’s too bad so many people use disposable diapers over some form of reusable. Reusable are so much cheaper and better for the environment.

  • cruzer May 16, 2012 (8:02 am)


    It’s bad enough now with the rats and the neighbor who won’t check his tipped-over trash can leaving trash all over the street for days, now it’s gonna be for two weeks?!

  • Velo_nut May 16, 2012 (8:08 am)

    Money making Scam.

    The city knows you will need to put out extra bags or cans every other week and will ding you with an overage charge for each piece.

  • LAintheJunction May 16, 2012 (8:17 am)

    I’m with WS dweler – I’d be thrilled to move to bi-weekly garbage pickup if we could have weekly recycling instead!
    But hey, if citizens don’t want to pay taxes, cutting services is the logical result. It astounds me when people who routinely vote against taxes and levies or who support every crazy Eyman initiative that comes along are the first ones up in arms when cutbacks have to be made. And compared to some of the massive hits that healthcare, education, and food/shelter programs have taken, bi-weekly garbage pickup is the least of our worries.

  • Seattleseabug May 16, 2012 (8:46 am)

    Right with you @LAintheJunction. We rarely fill our trash can every week but have overflowing recycle always. I also don’t understand how people think we can get everything without paying taxes, we do need to hold government accountable as well…there is a lot of waste in government spending. I do think that government is getting the message about spending as more and more people are speaking up. It will be interesting to see what happens with the reduced trash pick up, I am thinking that we may see a lot more of it dumped where we don’t want to see it.

  • Norma May 16, 2012 (8:48 am)

    We’re going to need lids that lock really well to keep out racoons and the other little vermin. Our little rectangular shaped container with the loose fitting lid simply won’t work any longer. I suppose they thought all of these problems out before deciding on this change???

  • KM May 16, 2012 (8:57 am)

    For those dealing with recycling overflow, I think you can get a second bin for no extra charge.

  • John May 16, 2012 (9:10 am)

    This is one of the worst ideas I’ve ever heard. A $100 stipend for a 50% reduction in service? No thank you. This will definitely become a health hazard for some areas. SPU needs to do a better job of finding internal efficiencies in order to trim costs. Please speak out against this idea.

  • Carol May 16, 2012 (9:17 am)

    You can request an extra recycle bin from the city.

  • gene May 16, 2012 (9:20 am)

    I also support this, but I don’t have kids or use diapers. What I would LOVE to see in addition to this change is:

    1. Ability to compost pet waste
    2. Ability to compost biodegradable diapers
    3. Better options for recycling/drop off of styrofoam

    I think those are three of the biggest items that actually need to go into the trash right now (or need to be driven to a drop-off in the case of styrofoam).

    Having said that, we (no kids/pets at the moment) only put out a small bad of trash every 2-3 weeks, so I’m personally happy with this trial, but I understand why others might not be.

  • bike2work May 16, 2012 (9:29 am)

    Disposable diapers…gross!

    Yes, recycling will need to be changed to every week and compost will need to remain every week for this to work…but where would be the cost savings in that? Maybe the city could give us back the larger recycle containers they exchange for smaller ones a couple years ago. Ever since that change our recycling is over-flowing at the end of two weeks (maybe we drink too much beer).

    And I would like to know…if they take garbage only every 2 weeks will they be charging us less??? I noticed no change in my bill when they switched to smaller recycle containers. They keep reducing service but charge us the same.

  • bolo May 16, 2012 (9:30 am)

    It’s not that hard, people. We had this when I lived in the south end, in the mid ’80s. The program was bi-weekly trash/recycling pickup and everyone just did it, as that was the program. No big problems of extra rats, overflowing cans, etc. Unless you forgot which week to set out the cans. Then it could overflow.

    Here are some benefits:
    1. Less dragging the cans back and forth to the street.
    2. Less noise, pollution, petroleum use.
    3. Less wear and tear on our (already potholed) streets.
    4. Less money.

  • Ex-Westwood Resident May 16, 2012 (9:39 am)

    The rates will remain the same, just as they did in Portland.
    The service will be cut in half, so you pay the same rate for half the service.
    Why instead of cutting the service in half for all, why don’t they tailor the service. Those that only need a pick every two weeks can have it done that way and those that need it every week can keep it every week.
    Its not that people don’t want to pay taxes, its the amount of taxes that we pay and where it is getting spent.

  • Aman May 16, 2012 (10:00 am)

    IF it works & saves all constituencies money it will be worth expanding. IF the results are one-sided it will me a BIG mess. This said, If you don’t try, you don’t know. I look forward to the results.

  • GAnative May 16, 2012 (10:21 am)

    “Recycling is Free – Recycling service is provided at no cost to Seattle residents.” (from SPU website)

    We have 2 recycle toters that are always full. I think we have the 32 gallon garbage can that’s not always full but if we went to every other week pick-up I think we would need a bigger can and, of course, we would be charged more.

  • Susan May 16, 2012 (11:03 am)

    Add a bar code to my can. I’ll put it out when it is full, and the can scans as it is emptied and charges my account. I don’t want to pay a flat fee when my can doesn’t go out every week.

  • Rob May 16, 2012 (11:03 am)

    With reduced services, will there be layoffs? Or is this a brilliant UNION move to reduce overhead expenses like fuel but allow the actual workers to get same pay with less work? God I love unions.

  • Walnut May 16, 2012 (11:08 am)

    I’m all for sustainability, but this is another classic Seattle move of regulating years ahead of upgrading the infrastructure to support the measure.
    I’m also guessing the socio-economic profile of that neighborhood will make it extra burdensome.
    How about spending some of that stipend money and projected savings to pilot neighborhood compost/recycling centers or upgrading the pea patches and educating people about reducing waste through making more and buying less?

    • WSB May 16, 2012 (11:10 am)

      For those interested in this: I have received some additional info from SPU that I am adding to the story, will take me till about 11:25 am unless breaking news interrupts, so please check back, including rate info and the FAQ. Apparently this info isn’t online because it’s a small test project. Nonetheless, since the results of that test project may mean the entire city going to this in 2015, according to SPU, it seems of interest – TR

  • rw May 16, 2012 (12:12 pm)

    Our regular trash can is usually pretty light, but the stuff that goes in there, such as cat litter, can get pretty stinky. I would not like to leave it out there for two weeks at a time.
    Also, there are times when you generate quite a bit of trash, such as when you clean out your garage. I hate the idea of having overflow, and then being billed extra for peak weeks when most weeks I don’t have very much to “contribute.” (The same goes for yard and food waste. Most weeks we have very little, but when yard cleanup comes around we end up paying extra.)
    A better system would be on-demand pickup, where you call in as needed (perhaps no more frequently than once a week) for pickups. Then you might go seven days some times, other times 10 days, and other times a full 14 or more. I suppose scheduling systems aren’t quite at that level of sophistication yet.

  • Mongo May 16, 2012 (12:27 pm)

    From the FAQ excerpt in this story:
    “What are the benefits of every-other-week garbage collection?

    Seattle Public Utilities estimates that citywide every-other-week garbage collection will reduce waste sent to the landfill”

    OK, I don’t get this statement at all. If they pick up X lbs of trash in my can each week, or 2X lbs of trash in my can every other week, how does that reduce the total amount sent to the landfill? It’s still 2X lbs of trash every two weeks. If anyone else here understands how this will reduce the amount of trash sent to the landfill, could you help me and explain? Thanks…

  • Leann May 16, 2012 (12:59 pm)

    We just moved to Seattle from holland last fall and there we had the same every other week pick up system: one week garbage, the other week yard waste. Except our garbage can (the size of a large bin) was split down the middle and one half was for plastic recycling only. Two adults and one child (in diapers) and we could make it the two weeks. I didn’t see it as a problem except around the holidays but we somehow would always manage. Paper recycling was picked up once a month by boy scouts. Glass beer bottles and plastic pop bottles were returned to the store. Anything else I had to drive to the garbage station and recycle or pay to dump. Consider yourselves lucky they do it for free here, and at your doorstep! Sure, in the summer it got a little stinky but that’s why we kept the bins at the back of the garden and hosed them out regularly or lined with a biodegradable bag. In the end it just means you have to sort your garbage more efficiently and think about what you are throwing away. Plus, it’s a TRIAL, not the end of life as we know it. I’d be willing to give it a try if it meant saving a few million dollars and less garbage trucks driving down our ally at 7 in the morning.

  • KBear May 16, 2012 (1:06 pm)

    Rob, your anti-union rant is pure garbage. Quit recycling that crap!

  • owen May 16, 2012 (2:04 pm)

    To those complaining about over-flowing recycling bins, you can set out your extra recycling at no charge. Put it in a cardboard box or paper bag next to your can. Here’s SPU’s How to Set out Recycling page with the details.

  • JoAnne May 16, 2012 (2:40 pm)

    This city is ALWAYS trying to take more of our money and give us less services in return.
    And no, your garbage bill will not go down with this program. This is not about conservation. It’s about city government mining ratepayers and taxpayers for every nickel and dime they can squeeze.
    And for those of you who do not recognize when you’re getting fleeced, I guess you deserve what you get (or don’t get).

  • Billy May 16, 2012 (4:28 pm)

    This is all about Job reduction !

  • Cclarue May 16, 2012 (8:39 pm)

    You can get an additional recycling bin at no charge. 684-3000. If half of the trucks are on the road how is that bad??sign me up. 2 kids 1 cat and one large dog. You just need the correct sized container. Simple.

  • Common Sense May 17, 2012 (9:16 am)

    Keep complaining, West Seattle.

  • AJP May 17, 2012 (9:54 am)

    We are one of the 200 families affected by this. We are two adults and a toddler. Toddler is in potty training, wearing disposable diapers only at night. Even when she was a baby in diapers full time we didn’t fill the trash can all the way. (I’ve tried cloth diapers with some success, it really is a pain and takes a lot more time and effort, which I don’t always have. I don’t have the luxury of being able to afford a diaper service.) It’s really not going to make a difference to us. In addition to the $100 (which we have to send in a form to receive, postage paid), the rate will drop by about $1.

    I would like recycling once a week, that would be nice, but as others have mentioned we can request another recycling can, or put out extra recycling next to the can.

    It’s not a big deal, we’ll learn to adapt and figure it out. So quit yer *itching, people. I, for one, am filled with gratitude that I live in a place that has garbage service that is easy and convenient. I lived in Holland too, in an apartment, so we had to take everything out to huge dumpsters that were about half a block away. And we carried our own grocery bags to the store. IT WASN’T A BIG DEAL. I also lived in Mexico, where I saw some terrible sanitation. I traveled in India as well and personally saw the horrible things you’ve heard about.

    This little problem? It’s nothing, people, nothing.

Sorry, comment time is over.