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Seattle's Trash Experiment: Will Garbage Pickup Every Other Week Be Enough?

Lesley McClurg

Is getting your garbage picked up every other week often enough? That's what the city of Seattle is going to try and find out. Starting on Monday a pilot project begins in four neighborhoods.


Seattle Public Utilities say don't panic — yet.

Croll: "We are doing it as an experiment first of all, and the reason we are going so far as to do an experiment is that it has the possibility of saving us quite a bit of money."

Tim Croll is the solid waste director of Seattle Public Utilities. He says cutting back on trash pickup from every week to every other week could save the city up to $6 million. During the pilot project, food and yard waste will still be picked up weekly. Seattle City Councilmember Richard Conlin says the city could save even more money if people put less stuff in the trash.

Conlin: "If we are further able to reduce waste because people are more rigorous in using their recycling and composting facilities instead of putting things in the trash, every ton of trash we don't throw away saves us money."

The pilot project is based on similar programs in cities like Portland, Oregon. Portland cut their trash pickup back to every other week last fall. So far the results have been good. Bruce Walker is the Solid Waste and Recycling Program manager in Portland. He says the amount of garbage there has been cut almost in half. But initially customers had a lot of fears.

Bruce: "'Isn't it gonna smell? I may not have enough room to handle all this material.' It generated a landslide of calls, if you will, to our office."

But he says customers have adjusted and are generally pleased. Seattle residents will be asked about their experience at the end of the pilot project here. The data will be compiled into a report published next year. If all goes well, reduced garbage collection could be extended citywide.

For KUOW News, I'm Lesley McClurg.

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