Chapter 1 – Plan Summary

Doing its part in helping move Olympia towards its vision of “Sustainable Community”, the Waste ReSources Utility’s mission is

“To lead and inspire our community toward a waste-free future.”

Its strategic role is

“To create opportunities to eliminate waste.”

Waste ReSources does this by providing municipally operated solid waste collection, disposal and diversion services, including education and outreach to residents, businesses and visitors.

In June 2006, the Olympia City Council adopted a Zero Waste Resolution (Appendix 1). It set forth a new direction for the Utility and guided the development of the Toward Zero Waste: Olympia’s Waste ReSources Plan, 2008-2013 — a six-year strategic and operational plan.

This chapter summarizes accomplishments since 2008; data about Olympia’s people and their waste; the Zero Waste challenge; the goals, objectives and strategies planned for 2015-2020; and the planning process.

1.1 Accomplishments Since 2008

The 2008 Plan created the framework for a more focused approach toward Zero Waste, with two primary goals:

Goal 1: Reduce the overall waste generated in Olympia (garbage and recyclables). The target was to reduce per capita waste by 5 percent. Since 2008, per capita waste has decreased by 15 percent.

Goal 2: Increase the quantity of recyclable and compostable materials diverted from the landfill. The target was to increase the recycling and composting portion of the total waste from 51 percent to 65 percent. Since 2008, the measurable portion of waste diverted increased to 60 percent in 2010 and dropped to 58 percent in 2012. Multi-family recycling has nearly doubled since 2008. Footnote 1

Contributing to this movement towards Zero Waste are the ongoing and newly implemented waste reduction and recycling programs, as well as the operational efficiencies achieved.

Program highlights include:

•    Adding collection of residential and commercial organics (food waste).

•    Creating a dedicated business technical assistance program.

•    Improving the City government’s internal recycling program.

•    Developing a third grade education program reaching all schools in the Olympia School District.

Operational efficiencies resulted in reducing the number of trucks and staff needed for residential collections by 60 percent, despite a 20 percent increase in the number of customers.

1.2 2015 Plan

Building upon these accomplishments and considering current challenges and opportunities, the Waste ReSources Utility developed this six-year plan for the period 2015-2020. The Plan update is built around four goals:

•    Reduce the quantity of waste generated and disposed in Olympia.

•    Increase the quantity of recyclable and compostable materials diverted from the landfill.

•    Operate collection services safely and efficiently.

•    Manage the Utility’s finances responsibly, with fair, equitable rates that promote waste reduction and recycling.

The Plan remains consistent with the hierarchy of waste management practices established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (reduce, reuse, recycle, and responsible disposal), the State’s Beyond Waste Plan, Thurston County’s Comprehensive Solid Waste Management Plan, and Olympia’s Comprehensive Plan.

1.3 Olympia’s People and Their Waste

Historically, waste generation has closely followed fluctuations in the population and economy with ever-increasing amounts up to 2005. Between 2005 and 2013, total waste collected and disposed of by Olympia decreased by nearly 20 percent (Chapter 3, Table 1). This decrease is likely due to the Great Recession of 2008, use of more light-weight materials, shifts in packaging materials, and an increase in recyclable and compostable materials hauled by private companies.

In 2013, Olympia’s residents and businesses generated approximately 36,853 tons of waste, of which 29 percent, or 10,960 tons, were composted or recycled through Olympia’s collection program. These data do not include commercial recyclables hauled by private companies or other self-hauled waste, because these tonnages are not reported to the City. Commercial recycling was estimated at 50 percent for the 2008 Plan. However, a detailed and more conservative analysis of commercial waste for the 2015 Plan suggests the commercial recycling rate is between 16 and 51 percent (Appendix 5, pages 97 through 98).

Based on the 2014 waste characterization study of Olympia’s waste stream (Appendix 2), about 42 percent of the garbage sent to the landfill is material that could be recycled or composted through existing curbside programs.

1.4 Zero Waste Challenge

Globally, waste is a huge problem caused by:

•    A growing population.

•    Consumption of material goods.

•    A system of resource extraction, manufacturing and distribution that encourages depletion and doesn’t factor environmental and social costs into the price of the end product.

The result is increasing depletion of natural resources and increasing greenhouse gas emissions, and air and water pollution, all of which is environmentally unsustainable and costly to society as a whole. Olympia residents and businesses contribute to this global problem.

The movement towards Zero Waste is part of a solution because it:

•    Considers the whole life cycle of a product and ways to reduce waste in “upstream” production and distribution processes, as well as in “downstream” consumer choices and waste management practices.

•    Supports operational efficiency by reducing the overall amount of waste to be handled, and by facilitating shared public and private responsibility for “end of life” waste management.

1.5 Goals, Objectives and Strategies

The primary framework for this Plan includes the City’s vision of becoming a sustainable community and Olympia’s 2014 Comprehensive Plan statement: “We understand and value the role that ‘reuse, reduction and recycling’ plays in our effort to conserve energy and materials.” The Comprehensive Plan’s vision for the future includes “significant reduction of waste.” Its goals for solid waste management are:

•    GU12: Solid waste is managed as a resource to provide environmental, economic and social benefits.

•    GU13: Solid waste is managed in a responsible and cost-effective manner.

•    GU14: Environmental impacts caused by solid waste management are minimal.

Within this overall policy guidance, the Utility’s mission is “to lead and inspire our community toward a waste-free future,” and its strategic role is “to create opportunities to eliminate waste.”

The key planning terms used in this Plan are defined in Table 1-1. Understanding them will make it easier to see how specific elements of this Plan relate to each other.

Table 1-1 Key Planning Terms


Broad qualitative statements of what the Waste ReSources Utility intends to achieve.


Specific, measurable statements of what will be done to achieve the Goals within a particular time frame.


General approaches or methods for achieving Objectives and resolving specific issues. Strategies speak to the question “How will we go about accomplishing our Objectives?”

Note: Definitions are adapted from EPA’s Planning for Sustainability: A Handbook for Water and Wastewater Utilities, EPA-823-R-12-001, February 2012.

The goals, objectives and strategies presented below offer a roadmap for Waste ReSources’ direction over the next six years. Further information and discussion regarding the goals, objectives and strategies are in Chapters 7 through 11.

Waste ReSources Goals, Objectives and Strategies

Goal 1

Reduce the quantity of waste (garbage, recyclables and organic material) generated and disposed in Olympia.

Objective 1A Reduce per capita waste by 5 percent.

Strategy 1A1 Encourage waste prevention through existing programs and in partnership with Thurston County.

Strategy 1A2 Continue to promote grasscycling and onsite composting.

Strategy 1A3 Continue third grade classroom education and adapt for other grade levels.

Strategy 1A4 Develop tools and systems to increase green purchasing.

Strategy 1A5 Support reuse, repair, sharing, and short-term rentals.

Strategy 1A6 Support extended producer responsibility programs.

Strategy 1A7 Explore material packaging bans.

Goal 2

Increase the quantity of recyclable and compostable materials diverted from the landfill.

Objective 2A Evaluate and understand waste stream characteristics and customer disposal behaviors.

Strategy 2A1 Continue to partner with Thurston County Solid Waste on waste characterization studies.

Strategy 2A2 At least once per year, conduct special collection routes to obtain tonnage data that can be used to estimate the amount of multi-family waste collected in dumpsters.

Strategy 2A3 Request data from private haulers and recycling and composting facilities on quantities of recyclable material, including construction and demolition (C&D) debris, they are collecting or processing from Olympia customers.

Strategy 2A4 Require private companies to report how much recyclable material and C&D debris they are collecting within Olympia.

Strategy 2A5 Continue to conduct behavioral studies to learn how to better motivate Customers to recycle and compost correctly.

Strategy 2A6 Use EPA’s WaRM model or similar tool to estimate greenhouse gas benefits associated with recycling and composting.

Strategy 2A7 Conduct an independent analysis of Olympia’s residential recyclable material.

Strategy 2A8 Use recyclable material capture rates as a decision tool.

Objective 2B Increase the quantity and quality of recyclable and compostable materials collected single-family residential customers.

Strategy 2B1 Continue to conduct residential education and update educational materials, as needed.

Strategy 2B2     Implement a cart inspection and customer feedback program.

Strategy 2B3 Continue collecting glass with other recyclables while monitoring and evaluating recycling markets and costs for an appropriate or necessary time to change.

Strategy 2B4 Consider banning easily recyclable materials from garbage.

Objective 2C Increase the quantity and quality of recyclable and compostable materials collected from multi-family residents.

Strategy 2C1 Continue cart-based collection of commingled recyclables, organics and cardboard.

Strategy 2C2 Continue and improve onsite technical assistance and outreach.

Strategy 2C3 Facilitate collection of products and materials for reuse and refurbishment.

Strategy 2C4 Conduct door-to-door outreach at complexes needing the most assistance.

Objective 2D Increase the quantity and quality of recyclable and compostable materials collected from commercial customers.

Strategy 2D1 Extend cart-based commingled recyclables collection to businesses, government agencies and institutions.

Strategy 2D2 Continue encouraging high-volume commercial food waste customers to divert organics for composting.

Strategy 2D3 Expand educational materials and onsite technical assistance for businesses on recycling and composting.

Strategy 2D4 Continue to improve collection of recyclable and compostable materials from City buildings and facilities.

Strategy 2D5 Work with other City utilities to integrate onsite technical assistance and participate in regional green business engagement programs.

Objective 2E Increase diversion of C&D material.

Strategy 2E1 Conduct a pilot test for transporting recyclable C&D to out-of-county processors.

Strategy 2E2 Develop a C&D recycling, salvage and deconstruction toolkit with information, tools and contact information for local service providers.

Strategy 2E3 Promote C&D recycling to builders.

Strategy 2E4 Require permitted building and demolition projects to have separate containers onsite for recyclable materials and garbage.

Objective 2F Increase the quantity and quality of materials recycled and composted through non-curbside methods.

Strategy 2F1 Continue to explore expanded drop-off recycling site within City limits.

Strategy 2F2 Develop additional Zero Waste Event educational materials and continue offering collection containers at smaller public and private events.

Strategy 2F3 Continue to encourage recycling and composting at public events.

Goal 3

Operate collection services safely and efficiently.

Objective 3A Implement routing and service changes that increase operational efficiencies and maintain or improve service reliability.

Strategy 3A1 Continue implementing one-side road collection to the greatest extent possible.

Strategy 3A2 Continue to pursue automated GIS routing systems and on-board scales for collection trucks.

Strategy 3A3 Continue evaluating and refining routes and drive paths to eliminate overlap.

Strategy 3A4 Explore developing centralized garbage, recycling and organics collection areas for Downtown businesses.

Strategy 3A5 Continue to coordinate with City Fleet Services to evaluate options for alternative fuels and hybrid collection vehicles.

Strategy 3A6 Create an emergency response plan for how Waste ReSources will manage disaster debris and interruptions to collection services.

Objective 3B Reduce the number of incidents and accidents.

Strategy 3B1 Continue to ensure that all Waste ReSources collectors are IAPD certified.

Strategy 3B2 Continue to participate on the Site Plan Review Committee to ensure adequate space and access to garbage, recycling and composting containers.

Strategy 3B3 Continue to work with customers directly to eliminate unsafe conditions.

Goal 4

Manage the Utility’s finances responsibly, with equitable rates that promote waste reduction and recycling.

Objective 4A Ensure that customer rates are equitable and reflect a balance between the cost of providing service and the goals of promoting waste prevention and recycling.

Strategy 4A1 Continue the current rate incentives for waste reduction and recycling.

Strategy 4A2 Continue to offer reduced and special rates for low-income customers and those needing roll-out service (driver rolls cart to curb).

Strategy 4A3 Continue to use debt and reserves responsibly to smooth customer rate impacts.

Strategy 4A4 Consider bundling fees for residential organics service with garbage and recycling fees.

Strategy 4A5 Consider an alternative rate structure for commercial collection, based on the cost of collection.

Objective 4B Seek opportunities to increase revenue from non-fee sources.

Strategy 4B1 Seek out the best value in recycling processors.

Strategy 4B2 Continue to seek grant funding to develop waste reduction and recycling programs.

1.6 Planning Process

This Plan was prepared by Waste ReSources staff, with technical assistance from Cascadia Consulting Group. The Plan was reviewed by the City’s Utility Advisory Committee (UAC) and the City Council’s Land Use and Environment Committee.

The UAC serves as the principal public advisor on utility policy matters for the City’s four public utilities: Waste ReSources, Drinking Water, Wastewater, and Storm and Surface Water. Committee members played a key role in reviewing this Plan and provided recommendations to clarify and improve it.

Research and Analysis

For data on the current composition of Olympia’s waste, the Utility relied on two studies by Green Solutions:

•    City of Olympia Waste Composition Study, 2013-2014 (Appendix 2)

•    Composition of the Mixed Organics in Thurston County, 2014 (Appendix 3)

Waste ReSources contracted with Cascadia Consulting Group to assess data and measurements that would allow the Utility to evaluate program performance:

•    Data and Measurement technical memo (Appendix 4)

Cascadia Consulting also conducted a baseline cost of service study to help determine the feasibility of various options for Waste ReSources (Appendix 5):

•    Providing commercial recycling service

•    Alternatives to including glass in single-stream recycling

•    Bundling organics into garbage and recycling fees

The consultants also developed three reports with best management practices from around the country and a range of recommended strategies:

•    Multi-family recycling (Appendix 6)

•    C&D reuse and recycling (Appendix 7)

•    Increasing commercial, residential, event, and school recycling and composting programs (Appendix 8)

Selection of Strategies

Waste ReSources staff reviewed the data from Green Solutions and research and recommendations of Cascadia Consulting Group. Strategies were selected based on how well they address the current challenges and opportunities, given the Utility’s capacity and limitations. Strategies were ranked as high, medium or low priority and assigned an implementation date (Chapter 7, Table 7-1). Recommended strategies that were not selected may be considered in the future, as conditions make them feasible, desirable or necessary to continue progress toward zero waste.


Summarized below are the Waste ReSources’ priorities identified for 2015-2020, in response to current challenges and opportunities described in Chapter 7:

•    Evaluate options to improve organics program participation.

•    Explore the feasibility of the City offering commercial recycling services.

•    Improve multi-family recycling participation.

•    Evaluate options for recycling glass and maintaining overall material quality.

•    Recycle and compost more, adapt to changing market conditions and currently available processing capacity.

•    Plan for extreme weather events and natural disasters, and how they impact waste management.

•    Plan for customer growth.

Public Information and Involvement

Waste ReSources sought public input on the Plan through neighborhood associations, a Utility bill insert, and posting the Draft Plan online. The City’s Utility Advisory Committee (UAC) gave input on the draft goals and objectives of the Plan in 2013 and 2014. The Draft Plan was reviewed by the UAC and the City Council Land-use and Environment Committee in early 2015, prior to a public hearing and final adoption on August 11, 2015. Public involvement will continue as Waste ReSources begins implementing new and refined strategies.

Ongoing Plan Review

Waste ReSources will manage the programs described in this Plan following the principles of adaptive management, which require routine review of effectiveness and course correction, as needed. Annual evaluations of program performance will be provided to the community and elected officials. This process will provide an opportunity to consider whether to revise strategies or programs.

1.7 How the Plan is Organized

Part 1 provides the context and background information for the 2015-2020 Plan. Chapter 1 summarizes the Plan vision, goals, objectives and strategies. Chapter 2 explains the Zero Waste concept and its importance. Chapter 3 outlines trends in Olympia’s population, employment and waste generation. Chapter 4 gives an overview of waste management in Olympia – its history, organization, and legal and policy framework. Chapter 5 describes Waste ReSources’ collection services, and processing and disposal facilities provided by Thurston County and private companies. Chapter 6 presents the education and outreach programs offered by Olympia and Thurston County.

Part 2 presents the road map for 2015-2020. Chapter 7 describes current challenges and opportunities, and presents the priority and implementation schedule for each of the 51 strategies included in the Plan. Chapter 8 and Chapter 9 describe the options considered and planned for waste reduction and for increased diversion of recyclable and compostable materials. Chapter 10 describes the strategies for improving operational efficiency and effectiveness. Chapter 11 outlines the strategies for financial management of the Utility and maintaining equitable rates that promote waste reduction and recycling. The Appendix contains the detailed studies prepared by Green Solutions and Cascadia Consulting Group.