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City of Seattle
Gregory J. Nickels (former Mayor)

SUBJECT: Seattle Converts Garbage Trucks To Cut Pollution

8/24/2005  10:00:00 AM

Seattle Converts Garbage Trucks To Cut Pollution
Switch to cleaner-burning biodiesel and ultra-low sulfur fuels
means cleaner air in neighborhoods

SEATTLE- Mayor Greg Nickels announced today that the city’s garbage and recycling trucks are upgrading their exhaust systems and converting to biodiesel and ultra-low sulfur fuel in an on-going effort to reach his climate protection goals and improve air quality.

“Most people don’t associate the word “clean” with the garbage trucks that rumble through their neighborhoods every day,” Nickels said. “But these changes will cut up to 90 percent of the exhaust pipe pollution and make a difference in keeping our air clean.”

Seattle’s solid waste fleet, contracted through Rabanco and Waste Management, totals 180 recycling and garbage trucks. During the next six months these diesel trucks will be retrofitted with state-of-the-art oxidation catalysts (DOC) to reduce toxic tailpipe emissions.

In addition, half the fleet will begin using B20 -- a blend of 80% ultra-low sulfur diesel and 20% biodiesel. The biodiesel, funded by Seattle City Light as part of its program to mitigate its greenhouse gas emissions, is developed from vegetable oils and produces less carbon dioxide (the major global warming pollutant) than petroleum-based diesel fuel.

The new exhaust equipment reduces harmful emissions that impact public health. When combined with ultra-low sulfur diesel, emissions of fine particulates and toxic air pollutants are reduced by as much as 90%.

“Exhaust from diesel trucks and other equipment is the leading source of toxic air pollution in our region, accounting for nearly 80 percent of cancer-causing emissions to our outside air,” said Dennis McLerran, Executive Director for the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency. “We call it the ‘gold standard’ for diesel fleets when they use ultra-low sulfur, biodiesel fuel and retrofit trucks with emissions control devices.” The Clean Air Agency is supporting the fleet modification with grant funding and technical expertise.

Switching Seattle’s solid waste fleet to biodiesel and ultra-low sulfur fuel is the latest in a series of steps the city has taken to curb global warming and improve air quality, following similar modifications to the city’s own trucks and cars.

At the U.S Conference of Mayors in June, Mayor Nickels’ Climate Protection Agreement gained unanimous approval and 174 mayors from across the country pledged to strive to meet or beat Kyoto targets for reducing greenhouse gas emission in their own cities.

Mayor Nickels also appointed a Green Ribbon Commission to develop a Seattle Climate Action Plan for meeting the target here in Seattle; its report is due in December. Other climate protection actions the city is taking include reducing the use of paper by 30%, including climate protection benefits as a criterion in Neighborhood Matching Fund grant decisions, and increasing the use of climate-friendly materials in city projects.

Steps citizens can take for climate protection and to improve air quality:
  • Leave your car at home - walk, bike, carpool, or take public transportation.
  • Plant a tree. Trees store carbon and provide much-needed shade in the summer.
  • Sign up for one of City Light's Green Power programs at or call 684-3000.
  • If you must buy a car, look for the one with the best fuel economy in its class

To learn more about Seattle’s Climate Action Plan, visit

For more information, visit the mayor’s web site at Get the mayor's inside view on initiatives to promote transportation, public safety, economic opportunity and healthy communities by signing up for The Nickels Newsletter at

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Office of the Mayor

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