Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Seattle Sets New Recycling Record

SEATTLE - Mayor Greg Nickels announced today that Seattle set a new city record for recycling rates in 2006, with 47.5 percent of the city’s residential, commercial and self-haul waste heading to recycling bins instead of the landfills.

Commercial recycling climbed by 5.1 percentage points compared to 2005, and for the first time, businesses in Seattle are diverting more waste from the garbage than they are putting in, with a 51.7 percent recycling rate. Single-family homeowners are recycling 64 percent of all their garbage, up 2.6 percent. The figures are based on an annual waste audit conducted by Seattle Public Utilities (SPU).

SPU officials cite Nickels’ 60 percent Recycling Plan and the efforts of businesses and residents as the primary reasons for the city’s recycling progress.

“All across Seattle, people are finding ways to waste less and reuse more,” Nickels said. “The great news is that both businesses and households are recycling more than they are throwing away. We are getting closer to our goal of 60 percent recycling by 2012.”

The city’s food and yard waste service and recycling laws, which went into effect in January 2006, continue to make a difference. More than 100,000 households are currently participating in the city’s food and yard waste collection, to the tune of an average of 82 pounds of food scraps and grass clippings a month - more than 12 additional pounds per month, compared to 2004. Businesses recycled nearly 142,000 tons of paper in 2006, an increase of 17,000 tons from 2005.

Seattle’s goal is to recycle 60 percent of its waste by 2012. Seattle’s recycling rate steadily declined in the late 1990s to a low point of 38.2 percent in 2003. That year, Nickels unveiled a range of new recycling services for Seattle residents and businesses, including commercial food scrap collection, more frequent collection of yard waste, vegetable food waste added to yard waste, new yard waste collection carts, new public place recycling containers, and free curbside recycling for businesses.

Seattle also passed a law prohibiting recyclable paper and cardboard and yard waste in commercial garbage. The law also prohibits recyclable paper, cardboard, cans and bottles in residential garbage.

In 2006, garbage haulers left behind fewer than 1,500 cans of household garbage with too many recyclables in them, and more than 95 percent of inspected apartments and businesses recycled correctly.

Last month, Nickels announced new efforts to expand the city’s recycling program starting in 2009. The city’s new solid waste collection contracts, which the City Council is reviewing, will once again set the bar nationally for recycling programs:

  • All single-family homes will be offered weekly curbside food and yard waste collection, which will include meat and dairy scraps for the first time. Food waste will be used as compost for local parks and gardens. Each year, food waste makes up more than 30 percent of our garbage - about 45,000 tons. This program is expected to cut that by more than half.
  • All other recyclable material will go into a single recycling bin, including glass, paper and plastic.
  • More kinds of plastic will be recyclable. Beginning in April 2009, residential curbside customers will be able to recycle all plastic food containers, such as plastic cups and deli containers, except foam.
  • Collection trucks will make less noise and pollute less. Sixty percent of the trucks will run on a bio-diesel blend and 40 percent will run on compressed natural gas, dramatically reducing key pollutants in neighborhoods.
  • New contracts will facilitate the expansion of the city’s Dumpster Free Alley plan, which is designed to cut crime, reduce waste and generally clean up the alleys and business areas.

SPU reports show that recycling continues to stagnate at the city’s two recycling transfer stations, whose diversion rate remained at 17.9 percent. Apartment and condo recycling grew by 1.1 percent to 26.3 percent.

“More than half of our remaining garbage is made up of recyclable and compostable material,” Nickels said. “We need to provide further opportunities for businesses and residents to help our environment and their bottom line.”

In addition to providing a reliable water supply to more than 1.3 million customers in the Seattle metropolitan area, SPU provides essential sewer, drainage, solid waste and engineering services that safeguard public health, maintain the city’s infrastructure and protect, conserve and enhance the region's environmental resources.

Visit the mayor’s web site at Get the mayor’s inside view on efforts to promote transportation, public safety, economic opportunity and healthy communities by signing up for The Nickels Newsletter at

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