Washington community plans for changes to recycling program

Washington community plans for changes to recycling program

The city of Tacoma, Washington, plans to update its recycling program by June.

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February 14, 2019

City officials in Tacoma, Washington, have announced several proposals to change its recycling program. The city currently offers curbside recycling service to residents, multifamily tenants and commercial customers. However, the city reports in a news release that “the majority of Tacoma’s recyclables are sold overseas, mainly in Asia, where countries have adopted strict policies regarding material quality. Materials that do not meet the requirements are rejected.” As a result of these policies, the city is facing “increased costs to maintain its recycling program” and is looking to change by June 2019.  

Lewis Griffith, division manager at Solid Waste Management, adds that the city has been “actively studying, analyzing and evaluating the impacts China’s actions would have on [the city’s] local recycling programs [and that] the impacts are resulting in a loss of recycling revenue and an increase in cost to the utility to get recyclables to market.” 

According to a city news release, city officials offered four proposals for changes to the city’s recycling program:

  • Limited recycling, which features an 3 percent (about $1.33 per month average) residential rate increase for additional landfill costs, eliminate curbside recycling and two satellite drop-off recycling centers.
  • Partial recycling, which features a $2.40 recycling surcharge per month, eliminates curbside glass recycling and provides satellite glass boxes or recycle stations.
  • Maintain full curbside recycling, which features a $3 recycling surcharge per month and removes problem items from commingled recycling list.
  • Maintain full recycling plus, which features a $4 recycling surcharge per month, removes problem items from commingled recycling list, provides satellite glass boxes or recycle stations and increases recycling education.

The city reports that both the limited recycling and the partial recycling options may require households to increase their garbage container size, depending on the amount of waste produced. This would also result in higher monthly garbage bills. 

In December 2018, the city began community outreach efforts and engagement plans to gather feedback for the city council on proposed changes. According to a city news release, city officials are continuing to host focus groups and community engagement events to gauge insight on which proposal may fit best. The city is also offering recycling feedback surveys until March 15, with plans of rolling out a new program in June.