Seattle is contemplating a plan to reduce its garbage pick-up service to bi-weekly collection starting in 2013, which would save $6.4 million and reduce the amount of recyclable material that ends up in landfills, as first reported by The Seattle Times.
The city hopes to start a pilot program next year, sampling 400 to 800 households with reduced collection to determine the public participation.
One of the reasons why Seattle would be able to offer less garbage collection is because of the city's organic waste collection program. This program accepts both yard and food waste on a weekly basis, which would not be changed under the proposed plan.
Combined with the city's weekly recycling collection program, the new plan would offer two waste diversion plans per week and require those who don't recycle or compost to store material for an extra week.
The EPA estimates that food and yard waste accounts for 25 percent of total waste, all of which can be diverted from landfills using Seattle's curbside programs. Seattle's program also accepts meat and dairy products, which often pose challenges in home composting systems.
The city can save money by reducing garbage collection because not only will less trucks be deployed, but there will be fewer landfill disposal costs. This is in addition to any cost savings associated with selling off recyclables and using the compost made from organic waste for city parks.
Seattle's push for zero waste does not stop with residential collection. The city has required its restaurants to offer single-use packaging that is compostable or recyclable, and is considering legislation to address phone book waste.
A similar alternative used by several cities in the Northeast is Pay-as-You-Throw (PAYT), where customers are charged per bag of garbage collected in order to incentivize recycling and composting.