Update: Every-other-week garbage pickup idea has been thrown out

ORIGINAL REPORT, 10:54 AM: Though at one point the “every other week pickup” idea appeared to be on a fast track to approval, the presentation that Seattle Public Utilities will make to a City Council committee next Tuesday paints a fairly negative picture. See the full presentation here. We’ve pulled out a few slides – above, the “downside,” which includes “significant resistance.” Next, the effects – basically, some residents would actually pay more for less-frequent pickups, while others would save no more than a few dollars:

To help increase recycling, SPU recommends some other possibilities:

Just before finishing this story, we learned about this note in The Seattle Times (WSB partner) – saying the mayor has made the call not to proceed (we’re checking with his office now). We first reported back in November that the City Council would decide early this year whether to go citywide with the idea, which had gone through a test run in four neighborhoods in 2012, including part of Highland Park.

11:07 AM UPDATE: And the official announcement has arrived from the mayor’s office, saying he read the same report excerpted above, and that’s what led him to turn thumbs-down on the idea – read on:

Mayor Ed Murray today said he is asking Seattle City Council and Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) to shelve plans for reducing garbage collections to every other week.

In a letter to Sally Bagshaw, chair of the Council’s Seattle Public Utilities and Neighborhoods Committee, Murray said his decision was based on an evaluation of the city’s recent pilot program that tested every-other-week garbage collection in four neighborhoods, and on the recommendation of a special customer review panel.

Bagshaw said today she supports the mayor’s decision.

Murray said his decision was motivated primarily out of concerns that the proposed program could work hardship on some Seattle residents, and that he remains strongly committed to the city’s recycling ethic and goals.

“Based on projections in the City’s recently-adopted Solid Waste Management Plan, we should be able to stay on track with our recycling goals without resorting to every-other-week garbage collections,” Murray said. “If that turns out not to be the case, we can always reassess.”

Murray said he has directed SPU to review and recommend the means to achieve the city’s 60 percent recycling goal through other recycling programs. That recommendation will be presented to the mayor and the City Council by the end of June.

“I agree with Mayor Murray that every-other-week garbage collection does not give Seattleites sufficient value to offset the personal costs involved,” said Bagshaw. “While every-other-week service would reduce garbage service by half it would not reduce residential bills by half. We must look to other programs to increase our city’s recycling and composting opportunities, and I will work with the Mayor and Seattle Public Utilities to achieve the city’s goals.”

In his letter to Bagshaw, Murray listed his reasons for shelving the every-other-week garbage program:

· SPU’s Customer Review Panel recently recommended against pursuing every-other-week garbage.

· The environmental benefits and the 8 percent reduction in garbage costs for an average Seattle family (about $3.30 a month) do not outweigh a 50 percent reduction in service frequency.

· Forty-five percent of customers in citywide surveys oppose the program; and in lower income and more ethnically diverse neighborhoods, the rate of opposition is higher.

· The City has other immediate opportunities to boost its recycling numbers.

The report on SPU’s pilot program can be found here.

The official discussion is set for 2 pm Tuesday (February 25th) before the committee chaired by Councilmember Bagshaw, Seattle Public Utilities and Neighborhoods.

27 Replies to "Update: Every-other-week garbage pickup idea has been thrown out"

  • bertha February 21, 2014 (11:10 am)


  • HotCoffee February 21, 2014 (11:19 am)

    Oh thank goodness. I appreciate that they took the opportunity to evaluate an idea to be more efficient and make better use of tax dollars, lower fuel consumption/pollution and such but it never had traction and had too many unknowns and downsides. I couldn’t imagine the warm summer months with 13 days of garbage outside my door.

  • Ted February 21, 2014 (11:23 am)


    This is another example of the importance of citizens voicing their opinion – and west seattle blog helping with reporting on important impacts to our community.

    When I first heard about this from WSB – I reached out and contacted Sally Bagshaw with extreme concerns about the impact to my family and community. Looks like it had an effect.

    Keep up the good work WSB.

  • Joe Szilagyi February 21, 2014 (11:47 am)

    The amount of approval of this was pretty low overall, when we studied it in the Westwood-Roxhill-Arbor Heights Community Council: link to our study and letter to the city.

  • dsa February 21, 2014 (11:57 am)

    Good news is so sweet to read, thank you everyone who helped.

  • astrogirl February 21, 2014 (12:03 pm)

    Yahoo! I filled out the recent strategic survey for SPU and was considering writing a letter about the rate hike, as well as the every other week pick up. We have the smallest garbage container and it went over the weight limit. We corrected the problem and contacted SPU for a new pick up. We were told to directly contact Waste Management to reschedule. Really! We are avid recyclers hence the small can. An every other week pick would have meant moving up to a larger size to compensate for things not recyclable.

  • Mat February 21, 2014 (12:09 pm)

    Glad to hear this. The juice definitely didn’t seem worth the squeeze.

  • Doodah February 21, 2014 (12:18 pm)

    I think this is a great idea. It’s amazing how efficient our household has become, we have the smallest can and usually have 1 small, grocery sized, plastic bag of garbage a week. I know others may have more, we can all improve. This will save thousands of miles of driving.

  • AG February 21, 2014 (12:21 pm)

    Thank goodness! We also recycle every last item humanly possible to recycle, we compost, utilize yard and food waste, and home composting. We even had to have a second recycle bin dropped off because we recycle so much. However, there are certain things that are simlpy garbage, and there’s nothing we can do to change it. We have the smallest garbage container, and while most weeks we fill it only halfway, our recycling overflows regularly, and there ARE weeks when the garbage can is packed full. There is no way we could go two weeks without having significant issues with trash, or having to pay for a larger bin.

    I love the use of the phrase “perceived service drop” in that first slide. Nope, that was an ACTUAL service reduction. No perception involved. It was crystal clear.

  • transplantella February 21, 2014 (1:14 pm)

    The raccoons are disappointed.

  • anonyme February 21, 2014 (1:34 pm)

    I’m stunned. The bureaucrats lost? Wow, let’s just hope that sets a precedent…

  • E February 21, 2014 (2:10 pm)

    The rats are disappointed too! Seriously, Seattle has a rat problem. No need to add to it. I recycle everything I reasonably can and buy the appropriate size trash can. I really don’t like my garbage sitting out too long fermenting for the rodents.

  • Jeannie February 21, 2014 (2:31 pm)

    Transplantella, loved your comment! The rats are very upset, too. I’m sorry money and time was wasted even floating this harebrained idea. AG, I’m on the same page. We do our best to recycle and compost as much as possible, but garbage is garbage. And if anyone honestly believed fewer pickups would lead to lower rates, I’ve got oceanfront property in Utah I’d like to sell ya!

  • Rachel February 21, 2014 (2:36 pm)

    Thank goodness!!

  • SomeGuy February 21, 2014 (4:02 pm)

    I am really starting to like the new mayor. Now that one dumb idea has been scrapped, can we get his attention on forgetting the tunnel was ever started? Viaduct 2029!!!

  • West Seattle Hipster February 21, 2014 (4:17 pm)

    Thank you Mayor Murray!

  • Genesee Hill February 21, 2014 (4:17 pm)

    This is good news. The comments above, for the most part, nail the reasons why it is good news.

  • Trickycoolj February 21, 2014 (6:45 pm)

    Shocked they used actual reasoning!

    I would love to see something like Der Grüne Punkt (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green_Dot_(symbol) ) to make single stream recycling easier. If it has a dot on it, put it in the recycle bin. No dot? Trash can. No confusion. As it is now I wonder is this plastic wrapping recyclable? What’s the number? What numbers am I allowed to put in my bin? Costco claims the plastic wrapping on their TP and paper towels is recyclable, but that’s not on the SPU picture… It’s a guideline but I don’t want to be putting trash in the recycle! And then if I visit my mom in Thurston Co they still separate glass…

    Northwest Profile #17: obsessive compulsive recycler

  • West Seattle since 1979 February 21, 2014 (9:26 pm)

    Excellent news!

  • ARE YOU KIDDING? February 22, 2014 (9:57 am)

    Joe, you are to be commended! You had the facts and figures to present to the city in your letter and it seems that is all the city needed. Well done!

  • fionaenzo February 22, 2014 (2:55 pm)

    Thanks Joe for all your hard work on behalf of the community.
    Trickycoolj, thanks for German Green dot info. So sensible.

  • K February 22, 2014 (6:13 pm)

    DAMN! I so wanted this to work!

    Sounds like the cost-benefit analysis wasn’t there to support this. Hopefully we get there some day, but seems to be the right decision at the time based in the information below. Although, can’t say I’ll ever have a problem with can up-sizers paying more.

    I would love to consider a trash share with my neighbors. I have some friends who do this in Portland–2 households split one moderate trash service. Seattle doesn’t allow it, unfortunately, I’ve asked. I think it could be a happy medium for those of us who use the service pick-ups monthly instead of weekly, while those who rely on a weekly service can continue to do so.

  • cruzer February 22, 2014 (6:31 pm)

    HURRAY! Thanks WSB for publishing the story

  • cheapskate February 22, 2014 (9:47 pm)

    Textile Recycling? Yes Please!!!!

    Clothes are so cheap these days, and (false brag) I buy so many clothes at thrift shops that I am embarrassed to donate them. The same is true of towels. If we could recycle them through pickup, it would be wonderful.

  • Jim P. February 22, 2014 (10:28 pm)

    8% reduction in billing + 50% reduction in service = effective 42% increase in actual costs to end users. That pretty much kills it for me and tells you the real goal was to increase revenue (and profits for the private sector contractor) at taxpayer expense. (Figures not mathematically accurate (It’s hyperbole folks..grin) I know but the principle is there.)

  • Laura February 23, 2014 (9:47 pm)

    Great news! I don’t think my micro can has any more stretch in it. :)

  • cj February 25, 2014 (11:38 am)

    Sheesh the garbage and recycles in my building can barely keep from overflowing with weekly pick up. Bi-monthly would be a biological disaster.

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