Date: Wed, 17 Dec 2003 12:41:11 -0600
Story from the 12/16/03 Seattle Post-Intelligencer:
We'll all recycle or else, City Council decides
By 2005, we have to sort our rubbish from the reusables
By KATHY MULADY
SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER REPORTER
Seattle, you're slacking off.
In the early 1990s, you were the nation's recycling leader. In some
neighborhoods, eight out of 10 households recycled. Congress lauded your
But that was then.
Since 1995, you've been increasingly sloppy in separating aluminum,
glass and garbage.
Yesterday, the City Council decided to get tough.
Starting in January 2005, residents and businesses will have to change
their wasteful ways. Recycling will be mandatory.
And by 2006, homeowners who don't recycle won't have their garbage
picked up until the trash is sorted.
Commercial customers -- the worst offenders -- face fines of up to $50
per collection. (Note: The fine amount was misstated when this article
was originally published.)
That means no more soda cans, glass jars, newspapers or cardboard mixed
in with the regular garbage.
"Oh, wow," said Sara Hardy, amid the recycling bins in front of her
Ballard apartment on Northwest 58th Street.
"I may have thrown a can or bottle in the garbage," she said. "I'd hate
to have my garbage not picked up."
But hey, Seattle, your reputation as one of the country's most
environmentally savvy cities is at stake.
And no, the city isn't hiring a fleet of garbage inspectors to hunt
through cans for illegal pickle jars.
But it will be giving customers a lot more information on how and why to
"Everyone is envisioning gremlins crawling in the garbage can and
weighing how much paper is there," said Councilwoman Margaret Pageler.
"You don't have to be a committed environmentalist to do this. I think
once people know what the rules are, 95 percent will act responsibly."
The ambitious recycling program was proposed earlier this year by Mayor
Greg Nickels, and introduced in council by Pageler.
The city will spend about $748,000 on education programs and service
If more trash is recycled, the city figures it could save as much as $2
million in landfill costs.
Recycling here began in earnest in 1988, when the city was running out
of landfill space. So it talked about building an incinerator in
Then, city garbage officials suggested aggressive recycling could be the
Charles Royer, the mayor at the time, set a goal of recycling 60 percent
of the city's garbage.
We never came close.
In 1995, recycling peaked at 44 percent. Since then, that figure has
been steadily declining.
At the same time, Seattle has emerged as a national leader in water
We use less water per capita than almost any other city.
"For a city that has shown such commitment to water conservation," said
Susan Stoltzfus, a spokeswoman for Seattle Public Utilities, "we could
be a lot better on recycling."
Although cities use different ways of calculating, some boast of a 50
percent recycling rate.
But all of this is lost on Hardy, the Ballard resident.
She grew up in Texas, where, she says, recycling isn't as popular as in
Seattle. So it's taken her a while to get used to recycling aluminum,
paper and glass. She likes the ideas of gentle reminders.
Around the corner, on 26th Avenue Northwest, Todd Waffner liked the
idea, though he wondered how it would be enforced.
"As long as it's clear it's coming and there are some warnings, then
it's fine," he said. "I can see it more as a threat. But I can't see
people picking through garbage."
P-I reporter Kathy Mulady can be reached at 206-448-8029 or
firstname.lastname@example.org P-I reporter Brad Wong contributed to this
US EPA Region 5
Waste Management Branch
77 W. Jackson Blvd. DW-8J
Chicago, IL 60604
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