The Seattle City Council doesn't think rats will overtake the city. They don't think loose garbage will flow freely in the streets. They don't foresee


City Council OK's Every-Other-Week Garbage Pickup Pilot Program, Isn't Afraid of Rats

The Seattle City Council doesn't think rats will overtake the city. They don't think loose garbage will flow freely in the streets. They don't foresee Seattle devolving into some sort of used-milk-crate and Chinese leftover- filled Mad Max scenario, where it's every man for himself in a world devoid of hope and full of garbage.

Nope, the council just thinks, unanimously in fact, that the city's garbage getting picked up every other week instead of every week would be a positive development for all parties involved - citizens, budget crafters and Mother Nature.

And they think, given the opportunity, you'll think so too.

The council voted 9-0 Monday to move ahead with a pilot program that will soon test the idea of every-other week garbage pickup in 800 Seattle homes, according to numbers published by the Associated Press. Estimates have put the potential financial savings for the city around $6 million a year.

Seattle City Council member Richard Conlin says Seattle Public Utilities will select a "diverse set of neighborhoods" - a total of four, with two north of the Ship Canal Bridge and two south of the bridge - in the next couple weeks for participation in the pilot program. Conlin says the City is interested in learning how to manage the different rate models associated with every-other week pickup so they feel fair to customers, interested in communicating the change with people and seeing how they react, and also interested in identifying any unexpected issues if they arise.

By the sound of it, however, Conlin and the council pretty much expect every-other-week pickup to go off without a hitch. They're excited about the reduction in waste, and also excited about the decreased garbage truck traffic travelling busy city streets.

"The hypothesis is, for most people it really won't make much difference," says Conlin.

"The best case scenario is people put out the same can," Conlin continues. "We suspect that's likely, but we don't know so we're checking it out."

Conlin explains the different rate models to be tested during the pilot program, saying: "The difference in the two rates is that one has only a small difference to shift to a larger size, and the other has a larger cost for making the shift. The question is whether people will choose to make a shift regardless of cost, or if they would only do it if it were relatively cheap. That will tell us whether there really is an issue with extra garbage, or if people can relatively painlessly reduce their garbage if they have a financial incentive to do so."

Conlin also says the city will give the 800 single-family homes participating in the pilot program a one-time $100 credit for their efforts.

In Washington, Renton and Olympia already operate every-other-week garbage pickup. Tacoma has discussed the idea, with the T-Town city council set to potentially vote on the idea by October. Tacoma has been conducting an every-other-week garbage pickup pilot program of its own since July, covering two routes and 1400 customers according to The News Tribune.

Conlin says Seattle has talked with other cities where every-other-week pickup is the way of the land, noting that, "generally speaking, there were very few problems."

Still, Conlin admits questions remain that will only be answered by trying the idea. For instance, Seattle features a "much bigger urban area," notes Conlin of differences between every-other-week pickup programs in places like Olympia. "We just want to make sure," he says of the pilot program.

If all goes as the city council has planned, Seattle as a whole - and not just 800 lucky homes selected as part of the pilot project - will be reaping the envisioned benefits of every-other-week trash pickup by 2015 according to Conlin.

Unless the rats eat us first, of course.

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