MAKING IT WORK
The purpose of this newsletter is to provide information, inspire involvement, and make things work in this great city.
STYROFOAM BAN AND GROCERY BAG FEE
On Wednesday, April 2, Mayor Greg Nickels and I announced a joint proposal for a 20-cent "green fee" on all disposable shopping bags at the city's grocery, drug and convenience stores, along with a ban on foam containers in the food service industry. Legislation to implement this program will be considered by the council this spring, and these waste prevention measures will take effect Jan. 1, 2009.
The goals of the bag fee and foam ban are to cut down on waste, reduce the use of environmentally harmful plastics and cut the production of greenhouse gases. Implementation will reduce the use of scarce resources, decrease pollution of our environment, and significantly reduce a source of litter in our streets and parks.
These proposals are important elements of the Zero Waste Strategy, the Seattle Plan to increase recycling and reduce our solid waste, a plan that received the unanimous endorsement of the Council and Mayor last year after a careful and thorough review of how we can step up to meet the environmental expectations of our community.
The foam ban and green fee for shopping bags are just two of several parts of the city's new waste reduction and recycling strategies approved by the Council and mayor in 2007. The overall goal is to increase Seattle's recycling rate to 70 percent by 2025 and reduce the amount of waste shipped to landfills by at least one percent per year over the next five years.
The bag and foam proposals were developed by a coalition of community organizations, including People for Puget Sound, Foam Free Seattle, and the Bring Your Own Bag campaign, along with businesses like Puget Consumers Cooperative. As a result of their work, the Council and Mayor agreed to make reducing Styrofoam and plastic bag use the first priorities in considering substances that could be banned or restricted as part of the Zero Waste strategy.
The bag fee is the right alternative because it utilizes market forces to accomplish a public good. People can choose to pay the fee or bring their own bag to the store. Any revenues that the City receives from people who choose to pay the fee rather than switch to reusable bags will be required by law to return to the Solid Waste Fund, where they can be used to provide bags for low income consumers, promote recycling and waste reduction, and reduce solid waste rates. This program makes the polluter pay, and rewards those who do the right thing.
The foam ban focuses on the retail outlets, rather than the consumer, and there is ample opportunity for transition to more sustainable alternatives. SPU has crafted a proposal that makes both of these transitions easy on business and consumers.
Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) estimates that 360 million disposable bags are used in the city every year, most made of plastic. Almost 75 percent of these come from the city's 575 grocery, drug and convenience stores (out of a total 3,600 retail and restaurant businesses). While Seattleites have a good record of recycling paper bags, most plastic ends up in landfills. But paper bags will also be subject to the fee because, taking into account the environmental costs of logging and shipping, they have significant adverse environmental effects.
The green fee is intended to encourage and promote the use of reusable shopping bags. The city will set aside at least $1 million to distribute bags to seniors and low income households. Retailers will keep 5-cents of every bag to cover administrative costs. Retailers grossing less than $1 million annually will keep the entire 20-cent fee.
Charging a fee for disposable bags will cut the number of throw-away bags coming out of grocery, drug and convenience stores by an estimated 70 percent or more, according to the city's analysis, and will reduce the use of disposable shopping bags in Seattle overall by more than 50 percent. By preventing the manufacture of 184 million bags a year, Seattle will cut greenhouse gas production by nearly 112,000 tons over a 30-year period. A similar fee in Ireland achieved a 90 percent reduction in use, from 325 to 23 bags per person per year.
The proposed ban on foam containers used by the food service industry would include such items as plates, trays, "clamshells" and hot and cold beverage cups used at restaurants, delicatessens, fast food outlets and coffee shops, and meat trays and egg cartons used at grocery stores. The legislation would also require that by July 1, 2010, all food service businesses currently using disposable plastic or plastic-coated paper products to convert to packaging that is compostable or locally recyclable.
Cities across the world are adopting policies to discourage throwaway plastic and plastic-coated paper products in the food service industry. As a result, manufacturers and suppliers are responding with new products - including compostable plastics made from vegetable sources, such as corn starch and sugar cane. Over the next two years there will likely be a variety of new products on the market.
More than 20 U.S. cities have banned polystyrene food packaging, including Portland, Ore., San Francisco, Oakland, Calif., and Suffolk County, N.Y.
To smooth the transition, the city will set up business advisory committees representing the retail and restaurant sectors. In addition, the city will help food service businesses work together for lower prices on new compostable products.
Many people in the community have been vocal and passionate about this issue for years.
These are a key part of the implementation of the Zero Waste Strategy that brings the City's solid waste policies in line with Seattleites' environmental values.
Listen to Council President Conlin and Seattle Public Utility Solid Waste Director Tim Croll discuss the proposed changes on KUOW.
For more information on this initiative, go click here.
Back to Contents
LOCAL FOOD ACTION INITIATIVE
On Wednesday, April 16, at 5:30 pm, the Environment, Emergency Management, and Utilities Committee (EEMU) will hold a meeting to hear public comment on Resolution 31019, the Local Food Action Initiative. This resolution brings together the critical issues around food to create a framework for food policy for Seattle government, because:
- Hunger is a major problem in our city, with thousands of people accessing food banks and food stamps;
- The production and transportation of food is responsible for approximately 17% of greenhouse gas emissions;
- Health problems caused by obesity are among our most significant and fastest growing health issues;
- There are serious questions about the security and availability of food supplies in the event of a major disaster, such as an earthquake that disrupts transportation systems;
- Food waste is the largest single component of the garbage that we dispose of; and
- The lack of connection between food consumers and local sources of food increases the cost and decreases the quality of much of the food we consume, while jeopardizing the ability of Puget Sound and Washington farmers to survive.
The committee will consider and vote on this resolution at its regular meeting on Tuesday, April 22, at 2 pm, with Council action to follow on Monday, April 28. The King County Commission and the Board of Health will consider complementary resolutions sponsored by Council Chair Julia Patterson over the next few weeks, with the goal of creating a coordinated regional Food Policy Council and policy agenda.
In addition to the public comment meeting, community members are also invited to two informational events about the Local Food Action Initiative on Friday, April 11:
-- A Brown Bag discussion with Seattle City Council and Frances Moore Lappé
(author of Diet for a Small Planet) on the importance of Local Food Policy,
at 12 pm-1:30 pm, Council Chambers, Seattle City Hall
-- A Conversation with Frances Moore Lappé,
5 pm-7 pm, Bertha Knight Landes Room, Seattle City Hall
Access to food is one of the most fundamental needs for a community, yet local government involvement in addressing and assuring access to food is often poorly addressed. An increasing number of local municipalities are beginning to realize the impact that the US food system, characterized by heavy reliance on chemicals, increased processing of foods, long transportation times, and inequitable access to fresh food (particularly for low-income people), is having on local food security, hunger, emergency preparedness, climate protection and economic development.
The City of Seattle's attention to our "food system" is spread across a number of departments without a unified strategic action agenda guiding our policies and projects. An ad-hoc City of Seattle Interdepartmental Team has been working in cooperation with a new community-based Acting Food Policy Council to address these issues and identify opportunities to strengthen our self-reliant food system as well as to begin developing an action agenda.
The Local Food Action Initiative will establish goals, create a policy framework, and identify specific actions to strengthen Seattle's food system sustainability and security. The intent is to improve our local food system and advance the City of Seattle's interrelated goals of race and social justice, environmental sustainability, economic development, and emergency preparedness. The benefits of the initiative will be to:
- Build community through developing community gardens, promoting farmers' markets, involving immigrants, and developing programs that contribute to food sustainability.
- Increase support of local and regional agriculture and make more direct connections between consumers and food producers;
- Improve public health by providing increased access to healthy and culturally appropriate foods, especially for low-income households;
- Reduce climate impacts of our food system;
- Improve the security of our local food supply in the event of a major disaster;
- Reduce negative environmental effects relating to the food system including minimizing energy use and reducing food waste;
- Create local economic opportunities related to local food production, processing, distribution, and waste management;
- Support strategies to connect major institutions, such as schools, hospitals, and jails, to locally grown food;
A few examples of actions include:
- Developing a City of Seattle Food Policy Action Plan which would identify policies, programs and opportunities to promote local food system sustainability and security.
- Strengthening existing local farmer's markets by finding permanent locations.
- Identifying additional locations and infrastructure for community gardens and farmer's markets to strengthen our community garden program and maximize accessibility to all neighborhoods and communities.
- Supporting programs such as a Food Bank–Food Waste Recycling Project and an Urban Farmland Initiative that can assist in providing fresh food for food banks and meal programs.
- Forming a Regional Food Policy Council that can assist the City and the County with developing policies that contribute to our goals.
Click here for more information about Resolution 31019.
Back to Contents
ZERO WASTE AND COLLECTION CONTRACTS
On Monday, March 31 the Council unanimously approved new solid waste contracts, passing another milestone in the Zero Waste Strategy. The new contracts include expanded recycling and compost services for Seattle Public Utility customers. These new contracts will help decrease Seattle's carbon footprint, enhance the environment, and provide new services for Seattle residents and businesses.
Food waste is the largest single component of the garbage that we ship off to landfills. Beginning in April 2009, Seattle's single-family households will be able to include meat, fish, and dairy products with their vegetable, fruit, and yard waste. The all-material organics will be picked up every week and taken to a composting facility. Table scraps will no longer be waste, but instead become a resource for the city's gardens. The new contracts will expand plastic container recycling, increase organics recycling in multi-family and commercial buildings, make it easier to recycle glass, expand education and outreach, and create future options for recycling E-waste, used motor oil, and batteries. The new contracts also require garbage and recycling trucks to use clean fuels and have enhanced emissions control. In addition, they establish a new $100,000 annual Waste Reduction/Recycling Matching Fund for community recycling/waste reduction initiatives.
These contracts are a key part of the implementation of the Zero Waste Strategy that the Council passed in July 2007. The Zero Waste Strategy is designed to bring the City's solid waste policies in line with Seattle's environmental ethos.
Other aspects of the Zero Waste Strategy that will be implemented in coming months include:
- Plans to increase the recycling of Construction & Demolition waste;
- The renovation of the existing two transfer stations for improved recycling;
- A cap on the amount of waste Seattle will send to landfills—440,000 tons annually, the amount of trash disposed of in 2006.
Approximately 70% of Seattle residents will have a new collection service, as the new contracts replace the multinational Allied Waste with a homegrown collection company, Cleanscapes. Cleanscapes, which will serve Northeast and Central Seattle, does not own a landfill, and will therefore have a financial incentive to reduce the amount of waste sent away for disposal. Waste Management, the country's largest collection company, which recently announced a new commitment to sustainability, will provide service to Northwest and South Seattle. Recognizing the challenges in this transition to new services and new service providers, the EEMU committee has asked Seattle Public Utilities to provide quarterly report on contract implementation.
For more information of the Zero Waste Strategy click here.
Back to Contents
PIKE PLACE MARKET LEVY
On March 25, 2008, Mayor Greg Nickels proposed a six-year, $75 million levy for improvements to the Pike Place Market, to be placed on the ballot in November 2008. This levy will cost the median Seattle homeowner $37 per year from 2009 through 2014 (based on a $420,000 home).
The levy proposal includes:
- $68.6 million for major repair, structural, and infrastructure and accessibility upgrades to all Public Development Authority (PDA)-owned Market buildings, as well as associated tenant space alteration costs.
- $2 million for capital improvements to Victor Steinbrueck Park to make it a more lively and attractive park that can be a great gathering place and an asset to the Market and neighborhood.
- $4.4 million in estimated financing costs.
Construction would begin in April 2009 and end in August 2013, and would result in improvements to the Hillclimb, Leland, Fairley, Corner, Sanitary, Triangle, and First and Pine buildings, as well as the Economy Market and Soames Dunn, North Arcade and Stewart House.
The Market's plan includes the following other improvements which will proceed with an additional $8 million of nonlevy funds (such as PDA, Market Foundation, State, County, new market tax credits, etc.) as those funds are available:
- Upgrade and/or relocate portions of the Pike Market Child Care and Preschool, the PDA offices, or other commercial common areas;
- Refurbish Stewart House apartments; and
- Add retail space in a few areas, seasonal stands/stalls along Pike Place, and built out common areas in the Soames Dunn and Economy buildings.
For the full version of the proposed renovation plan, visit the Market's web site.
The Market Board has been working for several years to define the needs for renovation, and has created a package that focuses on critical infrastructure and basic improvements. The Council is likely to be supportive of the proposed levy, recognizing that the Pike Place Market is not only important to our City as a signature destination, but is an important place for all of Seattle, a true market where many of us can buy fresh food, flowers and produces from family businesses and local producers. It is the authenticity of the Market that makes it so compelling as a tourist destination, and that is likely to generate support among both the Council and the voters for this proposal.
Back to Contents
PARKS LEVY RENEWAL
This will be the final year for the Pro Parks Levy, approved by the voters in 2000. The Mayor is not currently recommending renewal of the Parks Levy. There is, however, strong support in the community and on the Council for considering a renewal, and the Council will announce next week a series of steps that we are taking to explore this, including appointing a community panel to review and recommend priority projects and laying out a work plan for the Council to develop a package of projects and seek public comment on the idea.
Councilmembers are likely to consider a proposal that would keep the cost of both the Parks and Market Levies to roughly the same amount as the expiring Parks Levy, ensuring that property owners will not see increases in their property taxes by voting for both proposals. Last year, the City decided to let the Community Center/Seattle Center levy expire, and 2008 will be the final year of the Libraries for All construction program, which the City does not need or plan to renew. The City's 2008 property tax collections will actually be $4 million less than the 2007 number because of the decision not to seek levy renewal in 2007.
The original Pro Parks levy focused on acquiring open space and developing parks, but also included a large amount of operations funding for a variety of Parks maintenance and education activities. These maintenance and education activities have now been fully funded from the City's general fund in 2008, so there is no need to renew that component of the levy.
However, there are still many areas of the City that do not have adequate parks and open space, especially considering expanding residential populations (40,000 new residents over the last ten years). The covering of the City's reservoirs and the acquisition of the Capehart housing area to expand Discovery Park will add dozens of acres to the City's park land, but there is no source of funding for developing these properties for appropriate uses. Several City community centers, senior centers, and parks buildings such as the Asian Art Museum need major renovation. With the skyrocketing cost of land, it is important that the City has the funding to acquire green space and wildlife habitat before all of the remaining opportunities are lost to development.
A renewed Parks Levy could give the City the resources to address these kinds of opportunities for new and renovated parks and recreation facilities. Both opinion polling and citizen comments at community forums indicate that there is widespread public interest in considering this. The Council will work over the next three months to determine whether a package of park proposals can be created that will be responsive to public interest and reasonable to put before the voters. The Council will also carefully evaluate economic conditions to determine whether this is the right time to ask voters for approval of a levy prior to making a decision as to whether to proceed in 2008 or to wait for the next opportunity to put parks funding before the voters, which would be in 2010.
Back to Contents
"Integrity is wholeness,
the greatest beauty is
Organic wholeness, the wholeness of life and things,
the divine beauty of the universe.
Love that, not man
Apart from thatů"
-- Robinson Jeffers, "The Answer"
"A debt is an act of imagination. It is a gesture of faith, of confidence in the future, a reaching forward to make use of wealth not acquired."
Citizen participation and engagement are critical for maintaining democracy -- fostering it is a key task of elected
officials. It's my hope that this newsletter will inform you about issues, inspire you to get involved, and that together
we can make things work better in this great city. Please send me your feedback, so we can keep things lively, interesting,
Your Seattle City Councilmember
Back to Contents
Back to MAKING IT WORK Newsletters