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Seattle City Council's Zero Waste priorities for 2010-2011

In 2010-2011, the Seattle City Council will continue to pursue the strategies outlined in the Zero Waste Strategy, Resolution 30990 to achieve our goal of recycling 60 percent of waste produced in the City of Seattle by 2012 and 70 percent by 2025. These next steps includes efforts to bring organics service to multi-family homes, and remove phone books, disposable plastic bags from the waste stream.

  • Organics service multi-family buildings: In 2009, Seattle Public Utilities began providing its single family residential and some business customers with an organics service to remove food waste from landfills. Council will explore ways to expand the service to include multi-family housing. This will be considered in 2010, for implementation in 2011.
  • Phone Books: Phone books represented 2.7 percent by weight of 2005 curbside recycling collection. City Council will pursue strategies to improve the existing voluntary opt-out programs as well as explore other mechanism to reduce unwanted phonebooks in the waste stream.
  • Disposable bags: In July 2008, the City Council passed an ordinance placing a fee on disposable shopping bags in convenience, drug and grocery stores. The legislation was overturned via a citizen initiative in a campaign where the Chemical Industry spent over $1 million to oppose the regulation. As part of its Zero Waste strategy, City Council will continue to seek ways to reduce disposable bag use in Seattle.
  • Construction and demolition waste: Looking beyond materials that can be directly salvaged, the long term goal is to ban construction and demolition waste from the landfill. In the near-term, however, we need to take steps to incentivize a market for recycling these materials.
  • Used carpet: The long-term goal is to ban carpet from the landfill (14,000 tons in 2004 for Seattle). Like construction and demolition waste, the short term goal is to grow the market for recycled carpet components (face fibers, backing plastic, etc) and encourage use of recycled materials.

Regulations on styro-foam food service products go into effect July 1

On July 28, 2008 the City Council passed an Ordinance 122751 prohibiting the use of polystyrene (styro-foam) food service containers and requiring food service businesses to utilize recyclable and compostable packaging.  This Ordinance went into effect on January 1, 2010 with a "phase out;" period for replacement materials until July 1, 2010.

On May 17, 2010, the Council passed Ordinance 123307, amending the Ordinance 122751 to require fast food and food court settings to provide discard bins for compostable and recyclable materials.  In addition, a Director’s rule will exempts straws, utensils and metal foil faced paper from this ordinance for one year.

Do Not Mail Registry

On January 25, 2010, the Council passed Resolution 31169 which calls on the state of Washington to provide a Do Not Mail registry to minimize the volume of unwanted direct mail delivered to Washington residents. It also asks Seattle Public Utilities to explore low cost options to provide a similar service to Seattle Public Utilities customers in the event of state legislative action.

"Seattle is an environmental leader in the United States, and our commitment to waste reduction is unparalleled," said Councilmember O’Brien. "This resolution is about promoting a strong environmental ethic, but also reflects the need to show fiscal responsibility by helping to reduce the significant costs to Seattle ratepayers associated with disposing of unwanted junk mail."

Based on the Zero Waste Strategy adopted by the City of Seattle in 2007, calling for a state registry supports the existing waste reduction policy. Providing a state registry gives consumers an opportunity to curtail the volume of unwanted mail that they receive. The registry could work much like the successful national DO NOT CALL registry.

"We understand businesses will be affected but an actual threat to consumer activity is not proven," said Councilmember Nick Licata. "The prolific and arguably unread direct mail comes with a cost to our climate, fuel consumption, and our natural resources."

On March 31, 2008, the Council passed another milestone in the Zero Waste Strategy when it approved new solid-waste contracts, which include expanded recycling and compost services.

On July 16, 2007, after eighteen months of work led by Councilmember Richard Conlin, the Seattle City Council unanimously adopted a zero waste strategy to increase recycling, reduce trash and upgrade Seattle’s transfer stations. Councilmember Conlin said, "The Council’s commitment to sustainability put the City on the right path. Instead of accepting more trash as inevitable, we are now treating waste as a resource to be reused, recycled or composted. That’s a sea change in the way that we view it! This plan gives us a real shot at shortening our daily mile-long train to entomb garbage in the ground." The City now aims to increase the percentage of waste that is recycled or reused from our current 44% to 70% with a new set of strategies and waste reduction programs.

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