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Should Seattle Collect Garbage Every Other Week?

Gabriel Spitzer

Following the lead of Olympia, Portland, and Tacoma, the city of Seattle is considering less frequent garbage pickup. But not everyone who took part in a pilot program last year loves the idea.

In four neighborhoods, Seattle Public Utilities experimented with picking up garbage every other week instead of every week. The city did not change its pickup schedule for recycling or yard and food waste. The aim of switching is to reduce the number of garbage trucks on the road, save the city some money and encourage recycling.

A woman in the Rainier Beach neighborhood named Tania, who declined to give her last name, says the experiment did not make her recycle more.

"No, it just made me mad, because it smelled so bad," she said. 

Still, Hans Van Dusen with Seattle Public Utilities says overall, people in the program did recycle more, and 63 percent were satisfied at the end. That compares with 89 percent who are satisfied with the city's current garbage collection schedule. Van Dusen told a city council committee that satisfaction with the experiment varied.

"White and Asian households as well as those households with higher incomes, older residents, smaller households and no diapers, not surprisingly, had slightly higher satisfaction," Van Dusen said. 

Van Dusen says the city could save $5 million to $6 million a year if it picks up garbage every other week. But there are lots of things to consider, including rodents.

Tania in Rainier Beach says critters became a problem as her garbage piled up.

"Raccoons, they hang out now. We never seen raccoons over here hardly. Now you see them on a regular basis. They walk up and down the street like they pay rent," she said. 

The mayor and the Seattle City Council plan to decide next February whether to roll out less frequent trash pickup citywide. 

In July 2017, Ashley Gross became KNKX's youth and education reporter after years of covering the business and labor beat. She joined the station in May 2012 and previously worked five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.