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Should Seattle pick up neighborhood garbage only every other week?

Posted by Mike on December 7th, 2013

The Seattle City Council this week discussed a plan to pick up our garbage only every other week – similar to the way recycling is picked up.

That means possibly smelly trash cans sitting outside your house for a fortnight, instead of disappearing every (at Maple Leaf Life South) Thursday. Seattle Public Utilities ran a pilot program last year in several neighborhoods, including Wedgwood.

There’s a good piece at Crosscut.com from earlier this week:

Over 60 percent of the pilot’s participants were satisfied with their service, but lower-income and minority customers and households with diapers were more inclined to say that the less frequent pick ups stink. Increases in bad odors and rodent sightings were among the reasons customers said they were dissatisfied.

The service cuts would save SPU about $5 to $6 million annually and, according to SPU officials, reduce garbage truck traffic and incentivize recycling and composting. Garbage collection bills should go down for most customers if the council approves the new collection regimen, but households that need to upsize their trashcans to hold two weeks of waste would pay more.

Reaction has been mixed. The Crosscut piece picked up perhaps a dozen-and-a-half comments.

But when the West Seattle Blog ran a piece at the end of November, they got 72 comments, some with praise but others along this line: “RATS our city will be filthy and infested with RATS if this goes through!”

A full City Council vote will likely take place in February, with any change in service set for 2015.

What do you think? Should the city change to every other week garbage pickup, and possibly save us money?



Tags: Uncategorized

44 reader comments so far ↓

  • 1 Rory // Dec 7, 2013 at 1:03 pm

    Yes. Encourage recycling and composting. Increase the cost of trash pickup if you want it every week.

  • 2 MapleLeafBob // Dec 7, 2013 at 1:06 pm

    If they do this, they need to increase the recycling pickup to every week. We are always busting at the seems with recycling only being picked up every other week right now.

  • 3 JeC // Dec 7, 2013 at 1:42 pm

    I’m with Bob. I live in a house with 5 adults and our recycling gets full and the yeah is rarely full with a small container.

  • 4 Tim // Dec 7, 2013 at 2:00 pm

    My recycling already gets picked up every week and is 80-100% full every week. Garbage not nearly as much. Fine with me.

    If they do go ahead with the plan, they’re going to need a massive education campaign on what is and isn’t recyclable. For example, rechargeable batteries don’t go in the recycle bin. And I’ve heard the excuse “but they sort it!” to which I asked why separate things in to 3 bins if they’re going to sort it?

  • 5 Samantha // Dec 7, 2013 at 2:36 pm

    2015? I’m glad I will be out of this city by then. The garage removal services are ridiculously expensive and have more “rules” than any place I’ve ever lived.

  • 6 Will // Dec 7, 2013 at 2:54 pm

    “Over 60 percent of the pilot’s participants were satisfied with their service, but lower-income and minority customers”

    Where does that come from? So it sounds like white folks are ok with it so move ahead. The white folks pay the taxes anyway right?

    How about saving money by not wasting our tax dollars on crap? Instead of picking up our trash every other week why don’t we get rid of the trash in office wasting our tax money? We as taxpayers are constantly being told to be more frugal while the office takers (takers is right) burn through someone else’s money with wreckless abandon.

  • 7 Karen // Dec 7, 2013 at 3:45 pm

    If they cut the service to bi-weekly, will the cost go down 50%? I thought not….therefore, continue the weekly pick-up and reduce issues with rodents and smell. Especially in the summer.

  • 8 Tim // Dec 7, 2013 at 4:59 pm

    The cost would go down based on how much smaller your can would be.

    Let’s say it costs $1,000 to run a truck on any given route. Currently, a bi-week period incurs $3,000 in costs–$2k in garbage and $1k in recycling. Essentially this plan just switches them to $1k in garbage and $2k in recycling.
    I know those aren’t even close to real numbers but I can’t imagine the cost of running a route differs significantly based on the type of material being thrown in the back.

    About all I see is them reducing costs by getting people to recycle more. Garbage costs somewhere around $100 a ton to dispose; they earn $$ on every ton of recycling (depending on what it is).

  • 9 An Observer // Dec 7, 2013 at 6:32 pm

    Does this mean the Clean Green/Yard Waste bins would be bi weekly? I am into February before I get rid of all the fall leaves, and fill the 96 gallon toter every week, all year: pruning, lawn clippings, leaves…repeat.

  • 10 Lee Hopley // Dec 7, 2013 at 9:33 pm

    So this is the next nutty thing that is coming out the the City Council…thank goodness we will soon be getting district reps in the future.

    No, garbage DOES need to be picked up weekly. And why doesn’t the council think about weekly recycling pickup? The cans are too small and if you have a large household, one can pick up every other week is not enough.

    There MUST be some other pressing issue for the Crazy City Council to address. They have way too much time on their hands!

  • 11 Marie // Dec 8, 2013 at 12:47 am

    Portland allows households to opt for once a month pick up. If people want more frequent pick-up, they need to pay the true cost, and not be subsidized by those of us who don’t need weekly pickup.

  • 12 Marie // Dec 8, 2013 at 12:51 am

    Food waste can go in the the yard waste bin. Pick up yard waste one week, garbage the next. Allow the option for households to choose once a month garbage pickup, and pay much less than those who opt for every-other-week garbage pickup. It’s hard to imagine what households are doing to create a big bin of garbage weekly, other than not recycling everything that can be recycled. Perhaps some educating would help, although there’s been plenty of that.

  • 13 Dietrich // Dec 8, 2013 at 1:52 am

    Since garbage service is priced based on volume/weight, unless they reduce the rate by 50% this is actually a rate hike AND a service decrease.

    Why don’t we do some math.

    If your house is vacant for an extended period of time it is still going to cost you $6.85 cents per month and they won’t pick up any garbage recycling or composting.

    Remove that from the garbage fee as overhead and assuming you max out the weight of your bin each week you are paying 11.47 to 14.75 cents per pound. As a note of reference the transfer station rate is 6.59 cents per pound.

    Now the stated saving of $5.5million a year divided by the 270,000 estimated households in the city is $20.40 per year per household. They claim a per household bill reduction average of 6%. Now the $20.40 per household is $1.70 per month, 6% of the 32 gal can bill is $1.78 per month and 25% (the stated reduction in truck trips) of the $6.85 overhead fee is $1.71. So all that math seems to be close enough to infer that is where the stated savings has been calculated from.

    So if the only rate reduction is 25% of the service fee and you only get half as much garbage taken away. That makes your effective rate per pound 22.94 – 29.50 cents per pound while the garbage rate at the transfer stations stays 6.59 cents per pound.

    So the real question is … what happens to the extra money from this rate increase?

  • 14 Tim // Dec 8, 2013 at 2:51 am

    Marie #12

    Allow the option for households to choose once a month garbage pickup, and pay much less than those who opt for every-other-week garbage pickup.

    Doesn’t make any sense. If I opt for biweekly collection but my neighbors on either side go for weekly collection you save the driver about 10 seconds. Not worth it.

  • 15 Marie // Dec 8, 2013 at 10:31 am

    Tim,
    The idea is to encourage people to generate less garbage, and those who generate less should be rewarded by lower cost. Those who want more frequent garbage pickup should pay the real cost without the subsidies from those who don’t need such frequent pickup. Your argument doesn’t make sense. I’m glad of the reduced noise, traffic, air pollution, and wear & tear on streets with the every-other week garbage pickup; I’d be even happier if it went to once a month.

  • 16 Christopher Glenn // Dec 8, 2013 at 11:45 am

    Please, please go to every other week at the most! Our single-family household of two adults and two dogs could easily go to Monthly! Our recycle bin is regularly full and we do our own composting. Better yet, I would STRONGLY favor a pay-as-you go garbage pick up. Simply put, have a bar scan on my can. Drivers can scan it (to bill me) and thus I’m only charged for pick ups when they actually do so. Right now, I put the garbage bin out 2-3 times a month – even then, it’s mostly empty.

  • 17 Sue // Dec 8, 2013 at 1:23 pm

    The diaper theory definitely has merit. I remember the days. My guess why low income don’t like it is they likely generate more trash. They are home more and don’t go out to eat as much (my theory). Living on food stamps and hand me downs you get what you get and maybe even get what you don’t want. The study did not show an overwhelming desire to go to every other week so I would bow to the judgment of the less advantaged of us.

  • 18 Tim // Dec 8, 2013 at 3:55 pm

    Marie #15

    Those who want more frequent garbage pickup should pay the real cost without the subsidies from those who don’t need such frequent pickup.

    I understand that. If you opt for bi-weekly collection but each of your neighbors opts to pay the extra cost the truck is still going to drive by your house. It will save 10 seconds every other week by not picking up your can every other week. Those savings are not worth it.
    Either everyone needs to be weekly or everyone needs to be bi-weekly.

  • 19 Tim // Dec 8, 2013 at 4:07 pm

    Here’s an example:
    You live at 809. Your neighbors on either side are 801 and 815.

    Week 1: Pick up at 801, 809, 815, continue on route.
    Week 2: Pick up at 801, 815, continue on route.
    Week 3: Same as 1
    Week 4: Same as 2

    How much time and money did Cleanscapes save by not stopping at your house? 10 seconds of time, 10 mL of diesel and 15 pounds of garbage? Congrats, your bill just went down 85 cents.

  • 20 Jerry // Dec 8, 2013 at 4:21 pm

    Stick with weekly collection. First time in more than 20 years living in Seattle that I am already aware of multiple rat infestations. Leaving smelly garbage around even longer will definitely make it worse. Incentives and mandates to separate recycle, reduce garbage, compost – these are all working. I certainly do my part already. One of the most basic government function is sanitation – improving appearance, health, and smell of our community.

  • 21 Lee Hopley // Dec 8, 2013 at 8:25 pm

    Since the City Council will determine the frequency of garbage pick up (by the way, we are the only neighbor on our block who pays A LOT for the large size garbage can).

    First we voted to keep plastic bags (I always re-used them) and then to charge for paper grocery bags) We voted over and above the city council to keep the plastic bags/paper bags. The city council overturned our vote, the Peoples’ Vote.

    Now, they want to manage our garbage, too. They want to manage more and more aspects of our lives.

    The whole idea of recycling was to lessen the amount of garbage, and indeed we have been immensely successful in that regard.

    So, I see this as a punishment for doing well with recycling. Not giving us weekly recycling service and decreasing garbage pick up.

    And no, others do not subsidize my pick up. We pay a hefty fee for our big can even when it is half full at times.

    Next? We will be told how much food to buy and what sort of packaging is legal or allowed in grocery stores.

    This garbage pick up issue needs to be voted on by everyone…and if we decide to keep things as they are the City Council needs to keep their NOSY NOSES out of our business and respect the Peoples’ vote and decisions.

  • 22 David // Dec 8, 2013 at 10:07 pm

    Keep with the weekly pickup, we already reduced our pickup the reflect the increased recycling. If they go with biweekly collection, the amount we pay should be for a can twice the current size just to break even. How about a proposal to increase a All cans to a large 96 gallon can for the current 32 gallon price to reflect the 5-6 million $ savings to the citizens.

  • 23 Tim // Dec 8, 2013 at 10:43 pm

    How about a proposal to increase a All cans to a large 96 gallon can for the current 32 gallon price to reflect the 5-6 million $ savings to the citizens.

    1. Induced demand
    2. It still costs Cleanscapes around $100 per ton to get rid of garbage, so giving everyone a container 3 times larger would result in an increased cost of doing business.

  • 24 An Observer // Dec 9, 2013 at 12:34 am

    Speaking of the nickel we pay for the paper bags, I have always thought it interesting that the grocery stores supply the bags for free and the government pockets the whole nickel. 100% taxation. It appears to be a model the rest of government is trying to emulate.

    What was the effective tax rate when we chucked British tea into Boston Harbor? Even without representation, I am betting it was less than the 10% we are paying with the representatives we’ve got.

  • 25 Rob // Dec 9, 2013 at 12:49 am

    Would they cut my bill in half, too? Otherwise, it`s a stupid idea.

  • 26 MPR // Dec 9, 2013 at 12:51 am

    My garbage could be every other week, compost/yard waste most of the year every other week, but not always, and the recycle can be every other week.
    Sound like it could work for most but not all.

  • 27 Tim // Dec 9, 2013 at 1:21 am

    Speaking of the nickel we pay for the paper bags, I have always thought it interesting that the grocery stores supply the bags for free and the government pockets the whole nickel.

    You gotta find a new source for your information.
    Paper bag charge revenue is retained by stores

  • 28 Thomas Paine // Dec 9, 2013 at 1:14 pm

    Are they offering us a 50% price cut in exchange for half as much service? Sorry, of course they aren’t. They’re trying to sell us on less service for the same money.

    Seattle, get your hands out of my pockets.

  • 29 Rob // Dec 9, 2013 at 1:25 pm

    The city is clearly trying to find a way to fund more stupid projects.Less service, same cost.

  • 30 Brad // Dec 9, 2013 at 2:48 pm

    On the whole, the proposal appears to be reduced service to me as a customer, for about the same cost. I understand the big-picture goal of reducing garbage disposal, but let’s be honest about how this works out for the customer.

    Also, keeping food waste and garbage around for up to two weeks, particularly in the summer, sounds like a step backward for our civilization.

  • 31 An Observer // Dec 9, 2013 at 4:09 pm

    News to me.

  • 32 Sarah // Dec 9, 2013 at 4:41 pm

    We need weekly recycling pickup!!!

  • 33 Wadical Weft // Dec 9, 2013 at 5:22 pm

    With the advent of urban farms and food scrap recycling, we have way too many rats around. Bi-weekly trash pick up will make it work.

    However, if the price were cut in half…

  • 34 Wadical Weft // Dec 9, 2013 at 5:23 pm

    Sigh – “make it work” should be “make the rat problem worse”

  • 35 AnotherEric // Dec 9, 2013 at 5:34 pm

    I am with the majority here. We need increased recycling service, not decreased garbage service. Our recycling bin is usually filled to bursting.

    We are using the smallest garbage vessel available; a black box. I will need to level up to the next larger size if we go bi-weekly. Kind of defeats the purpose for us.

  • 36 MC // Dec 10, 2013 at 1:33 am

    Another vote for weekly pickup. Our family fills up a small can and we’d have to get a big one to go to biweekly. Diapers and cat litter don’t smell great in the summer.

    For those busting out of their recycling bin, you can add another for free. Check out the website, I called them and the next week I had a monster-sized can, very helpful. http://www.seattle.gov/util/MyServices/Recycling/HouseResidentsRecycle/index.htm

  • 37 Jon // Dec 10, 2013 at 11:42 am

    Our house has three adults and four kids (one still in diapers).

    We have a medium garbage can that is packed every week, two huge recycles containers that are nearly always full by the time of pickup, and a huge yard waste bin that get about half full in the winter and has occasionally gotten to capacity in the spring and fall. (As an aside, I often feel like the yard waste bins are too big. There have been times that it was only 1/2-3/4 full, but they refused to take it because they said it was too heavy. If there equipment can’t handle a full bin, maybe don’t give people bins that are that big…?)

    I don’t think we would hurt too much if they took use down to bi-weekly garbage service, but I would expect a larger bin at no charge to compensate for the less frequent pickup, and since we’re saying them money, I would also expect to see a little bit of reduction on our bill. If it’s just a wash for the resident, I would rather not deal with the hassle of trying to remember if it was “garbage week” or not.

  • 38 Katy // Dec 10, 2013 at 12:27 pm

    Jon wrote:
    “I don’t think we would hurt too much if they took use down to bi-weekly garbage service, but I would expect a larger bin at no charge to compensate for the less frequent pickup, and since we’re saying them money, I would also expect to see a little bit of reduction on our bill. If it’s just a wash for the resident, I would rather not deal with the hassle of trying to remember if it was “garbage week” or not.”

    Yes, exactly.

  • 39 Tim // Dec 10, 2013 at 1:54 pm

    Jon #37:

    they refused to take it because they said it was too heavy. If there equipment can’t handle a full bin, maybe don’t give people bins that are that big…?)

    96 gallons of grass clippings weigh a lot more than 96 gallons of branches and leaves. Remember: Density = Mass / Volume.

  • 40 Dan // Dec 10, 2013 at 6:54 pm

    My garbage is never full and we have a 20 gallon mini-can, we recycle and compost so much now. I’d happily have recycling picked up every week and garbage every other.

  • 41 Will // Dec 10, 2013 at 7:35 pm

    We need to vote these people out of office.

  • 42 Tim // Dec 10, 2013 at 7:46 pm

    We just voted. Conlin got replaced.

  • 43 Jojo // Dec 11, 2013 at 12:31 am

    If you guys can wait a month for a garbage collection – what size can do you have???

    My family 4 people (+ 1, when home fr college) & 2 dogs have the SMALLEST garbage can that fits exactly one white garbage bag (& bagged dog poo). I could not go 2 weeks with the can we have. Our family produces one bag of garbage a week. We compost everything we can. We have two giant recycle containers that are full every pickup day.

    I’d keep it as is.

  • 44 An Observer // Dec 12, 2013 at 1:20 am

    The information I am finding indicates the 96 gallon yard waste/clean green bins can hold 335 pounds.

    Dunno what the City considers too much weight to pick up, but the carts capacity apparently isn’t the issue.