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September 2006


Seattle shows significant improvement in recycling rate with new ordinance

The City of Seattle began enforcing an ordinance prohibiting recyclables from the garbage six months ago and results indicate a positive effect on the city’s residential and commercial recycling rates.

From January 1 to June 30, approximately 95 percent of the apartments and businesses inspected were recycling correctly. Of the approximately 3.9 million household garbage cans collected, only 892 were left behind for having more than 10 percent recyclables in them.

A charge of $50 is levied to businesses, apartments and condominiums upon the third infraction of too many recyclables left in garbage.

Seattle’s recycling rate sank from 45 percent in 1995 to a low of 38 percent in 2003. Passage of the recycling ordinance in November 2003 by the Seattle City Council was part of Mayor Greg Nickels’ 60 percent Recycling Plan, which included several new city recycling programs to help the city reach its goal of recycling 60 percent of all its waste by 2010. Officials expect the increased recycling will save the city an additional $2 million a year.

Seattle spends $19 million each year to send more than 900 million pounds of garbage to a landfill. In 2005, the city’s residential recycling program saved $4.4 million (comparing landfill costs to recycling processing costs) by collecting and selling more than 160 million pounds of recyclables to markets.

Seattle residents recycled 5.8 million more pounds in 2005 than in 2004. The city’s 2005 overall garbage disposal tonnage was the lowest in 10 years, despite population growth.

The City of Seattle was recently honored by the Solid Waste Association of North America with two Excellence Awards for public education and communications. In April, the American Forest & Paper Association named the City of Seattle its 2006 “Community Recycler of the Year.”

The city offers free recycling resources to businesses, apartments and households. For information about Seattle’s recycling program, visit

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