Tacoma could move closer to every-other-week garbage collection

City of Tacoma officials will once again take up the issue of every-other-week garbage collection this week at City Hall.

On Wednesday, Tacoma Public Works staff are scheduled to ask members of Tacoma City Council’s environment and public works committee to recommend approving a proposed resolution that would allow the city to begin phasing in the every-other-week program over the course of a year beginning in January, with actual changes to customer containers and frequency beginning next March. The plan also requires hiring 21 temporary employees for up to 14 months in order to exchange the garbage containers for every residential customer served by Solid Waste Management and work on “knock-and-talk” public outreach teams.

City officials estimate that switching to every-other-week garbage collection will reduce the cost of the residential garbage collection program by between $900,000 and nearly $1.3 million per year. However, the one-time costs to implement the program would total nearly $1.7 million, in addition to $2.2 million to purchase containers.

Tacoma’s solid waste utility conducted a six-month pilot program between July 20, 2011 through Feb. 15, 2012, that included one collection route in the North on Monday and a second in the South on Wednesday to determine the benefits and challenges of every-other-week garbage collection. In January, Public Works staffed briefed city council’s environment and public works committee on the results of the pilot project.

“The results of the [pilot project] indicate that significant cost savings and an increase in waste diversion can be realized by switching to [every-other-week] garbage collection service,” wrote Tacoma Public Works Director Richard E. McKinley in an April 25 memo to City Manager T. C. Broadnax. McKinley also noted the start-up costs associated with the program. “As a majority of our customers’ container sizes would need to be changed, the logistics of that exchange project will be a very large temporary operation,” wrote McKinley. “In addition, performing ‘knock and talks’ across our customer base and managing accounts will be very labor intensive.”

Still, McKinley added, “The long-term cost savings, increased choices to our customers, and environmental considerations are all very strong arguments for program implementation.

Tacoma City Council was briefed on the plan during a study session in May. More information about every-other-week garbage collection in Tacoma is online here.

If the council committee approves a “do pass” recommendation this week, a resolution would be forwarded to the full city council for final approval.

The council committee meeting is scheduled to discuss the issue during its meeting on Weds., Oct. 10 at 4:30 p.m. in Tacoma Municipal Building North, 733 Market Street, Conference Room 16. A copy of the agenda and meeting materials are available online here.

Tacoma garbage collection. (PHOTO COURTESY CITY OF TACOMA)