The Mayor of Seattle recently published the results of a study to show how Seattle can get its recycling strategy back on track.

Three major goals of the study were to:

provide an objective, third-party evaluation of Seattle‘‘s work to date

identify potential strategies that could push Seattle beyond its current 60% diversion goal

evaluate the effect that implementing such strategies would have on facilities

The City of Seattle has had a long-established goal to recycle 60 percent of all the waste generated by its residents and businesses. In 2002, the city‘‘s recycling rate had stagnated at less than 38 percent.

In November 2003, Mayor Nickels proposed 10 innovative programmes to help the city reach 60 percent diversion by 2010, including a recycling ordinance for businesses and residents, free recycling services for small businesses and a residential food waste collection program. By 2005, Seattle‘‘s recycling rate had sharply risen to 44 percent, with even more gains expected.

The newly completed study, jointly sponsored by the City Council is in two parts. The main report is in Volume 1 (PDF). All the strategies that were considered for the report are contained in Volume 2 (PDF).

Seattle Public Utilities considers its existing solid waste recycling, transfer and disposal facilities, constructed in the 1960s, to be outdated, poorly designed, and lacking in adequate environmental controls to meet the city‘‘s current and future solid waste goals. The city‘‘s decision on its solid waste facilities plan is scheduled to be made by July 2007.

Waste definitions

An interesting element of the consultant‘‘s report centres on definitions and how these can be used to approach target-setting and compliance. The consultant team reviewed the ways that three states (California, Oregon and Washington), four cities (Seattle, Portland Metro, New York City and San Francisco) and the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) measure recycling. There is no single, universally accepted method of calculation and it was readily apparent that there are numerous differences between the various methods that make an “apples to apples” comparison between jurisdictions extremely difficult.

One major difference between jurisdictions is the way that similar terms are defined: for example recycling, reuse, recovery, waste avoidance, waste minimization, beneficial use, and diversion. There are overlaps and conflicts between the various definitions and the formulas for what counts as recycling/recovery/diversion and what does not count. Fortunately, it is relatively easy to gather the data required to measure the recycling of traditional materials such as aluminum and “tin” cans, PET and HDPE containers, various paper products, etc. This allows all the studied jurisdictions to calculate a recycling rate as a percentage of waste generated (which is in itself calculated in several ways). A major difficulty in measuring recycling is the fact that many materials that are worth recycling (eg construction/demolition (C&D) debris, concrete, asphalt, batteries, oil filters, tires, and wood for energy recovery) are not included in the generally accepted definition of municipal solid waste (MSW). As such, they cannot be counted toward “recycling” of solid waste. Research indicates that the states of California, Oregon, and Washington now include C&D debris (and some of these other materials) in their list of materials that can be counted towards a recovery or diversion rate. This measures the amount of material diverted from landfill disposal and as such, is a useful measurement of progress towards achieving Zero Waste.

On these different definitions, the consultants note that:

The California rate appears high because it allows its jurisdictions to i

Ano da Publicação:
WARMER BULLETIN ENEWS #25-2007-June 22, 2007
Kit Strange/Warmer Bulletin
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