Chapter 3 – Olympia’s People and Their Waste

This chapter describes trends in population and land use that affect the City’s ability to reduce waste, increase recycling and composting, and manage collection services efficiently. It also presents basic facts and trends about waste generated by Olympia residents and businesses, and opportunities for diverting more recyclable and compostable materials from the landfill.

3.1 Population and Customers

The City provides garbage and recycling collection services to nearly all areas within City limits. A transition period of up to 10 years is provided to the private companies when new areas are annexed into the City. Figure 3-1 shows the City limits with annexed areas and the respective dates the City will assume solid waste collection.

Between 2005 and 2013, population within the City grew by almost 12 percent, from 43,330 to 48,480 — an annual growth rate of about 1.5 percent. The Thurston Regional Planning Council (TRPC) projects an annual 1.5 percent growth rate over the next 25 years to a population of about 67,730 by 2035. Olympia’s population is expected to increase about 1.7 percent to around 54,600 by 2020.

View Figure 3-1 City Collection Boundaries, 2014

Growing Customer Base

As population increases, a corresponding increase in Utility customers and waste generation can be expected. Overall, the number of housing units served by residential side-load trucks is projected to increase 1.4 percent per year. The number of multi-family housing units serviced by commercial type trucks is projected to increase 2.2 percent each year (Appendix 5, Residential and Commercial Collection Service Studies, Table 19, pages 47 and 48). The increase in multi-family households will affect the way Olympia collects its waste (see Chapter 5). Projected growth in population and households is shown in Figure 3-2.

Annexations completed in 2007 are expected to result in about 400 additional single-family dwelling units in 2017. Growth from small development and infill may add an additional 100 to 200 single-family dwelling units annually. Growth in the commercial sector is more difficult to predict, due to lack of historical data and the fact that businesses open, close and change use at any given site. Commercial growth is assumed to follow somewhat closely with the residential trends on a percentage basis.

Based on these projections, this Plan assumes approximately 1,000 new single-family residential customers will request garbage and recycling service from the City by 2020; plus about 1,300 to 1,700 new multi-family housing units serviced by commercial type trucks (Appendix 5, Table 20, page 49). With on-going route balancing and efficiencies, such as one-side road collection and the current level of service, this Plan assumes the Utility can absorb this increase with the same number of collection personnel and vehicles for the next two years. If organics were bundled with garbage service, an additional truck and driver would be needed. Currently, Waste ReSources uses one of two spare trucks part time; by 2020 the Utility would be down to one spare truck, if another is not added (Appendix 5, page 21).

View Figure 3-2 Population and Number of Households, 1995 to 2025

Demographics

According to TRPC’s most recent data (2013), over 77 percent of Thurston County’s population growth is people migrating from other areas. Employment stability, lower housing costs and lower density are considered the main attractions. Footnote 6

People 55 and older account for 20 percent of Olympia’s population. Seven percent are aged 65 and older and make up a growing segment of the County’s population. People in this age group tend to live on fixed incomes and are considered to be relatively sensitive to cost increases and diligent about recycling and resource conservation.

Language is an important consideration when developing programs and outreach materials. People in about 13 percent of Olympia households speak a language other than English at home. A small portion (2.7 %) are linguistically isolated, meaning no one in a household older than 14 speaks English at all or very well. Spoken languages include Asian and Pacific Island (5.2%), Spanish (4.7%), other Indo-European (2.6%) and other (0.05%).

Employment

Employment can be a convenient indicator of the need for waste management services in the business sector. TRPC estimated that in 2010 an estimated 51,315 people worked in Olympia — a slight decrease from 2003. Of these, more than half worked in retail and service businesses, and over one third in government and schools. Total employment is expected to grow to nearly 70,000 by 2035. Footnote 7 The biggest increase is expected in professional, education, health, financial and food services. These sectors typically are large generators of paper and food scraps.

3.2 Waste Generation and Diversion

This section describes the total “pile” of waste that Olympia residents and businesses now generate, and the portion of that “pile” that is currently and potentially diverted through recycling and composting programs. As discussed in Chapter 1 and Chapter 2, the City’s Zero Waste vision aims to eventually reduce the size of the overall “pile” of waste and increase the portion that is recycled or composted.

In Thurston County, all waste that is not diverted from the landfill is taken to the County’s Waste and Recovery Center (WARC) at Hawks Prairie in Lacey. From there, it is shipped by rail to the regional landfill in Klickitat County. See Chapter 5 for details on the collection and processing of garbage and recyclable and compostable materials.

What Is Waste?

In order to pursue the City’s Zero Waste vision, this Plan addresses all Municipal Solid Waste (MSW), recyclables and compostable debris generated by Olympia residents and businesses, regardless of whether the material is collected by the City or private companies, or whether it is self-hauled to disposal or recycling collection centers. It does not address dangerous wastes, biomedical wastes, or other wastes with special regulatory requirements, although the City can exert influence on these other wastes through regulation, education, advocacy, and direct service.

Municipal solid waste is a mixture of discarded items and materials that have not been separated for recycling or composting. Because people are not 100 percent efficient at separating out recyclables, their MSW usually contains recyclable materials and yard debris that have been discarded with other trash.

Recyclable materials include the traditional “curbside” items such as paper, cardboard, bottles and cans. However, anything that can be “transformed or remanufactured” into “usable or marketable materials” is considered recyclable. Other materials often recycled include ferrous and non-ferrous metals, gypsum, textiles, and food debris. Products such as computers and rechargeable batteries are also considered recyclable where a take-back program is available.

Construction and demolition (C&D) debris is often identified as a separate waste category because of the way it is generated. However, it is essentially a component of MSW. Some C&D materials are discarded into ordinary residential and commercial garbage containers; for example, waste from small remodels and repairs. Large quantities of C&D debris generated at construction sites are usually placed into rented dumpsters and sent to the landfill. If C&D materials such as wood, concrete or metal are separated for recycling, they are counted as recyclables, not MSW.

How Much Waste Is Generated?

In 2013, Olympia’s residents and businesses generated approximately 36,853 tons of waste. This does not include garbage, recyclable and organic materials collected by private companies, self-hauled to WARC or collected from the Capitol Campus.

Figure 3-3 shows the changes in waste generation and population between 2005 and 2013, based on what Olympia hauls and can accurately measure (excludes commercial recycling hauled by private companies). While population increased by 11.5 percent, total waste hauled by Olympia declined by 8 percent. Within that overall trend, garbage decreased by 30 percent, organics increased by 60 percent and recycling decreased by 8 percent

By comparison, between 1999 and 2013, residential waste increased overall by 9 percent, while population increased by 16 percent. During this period, trends varied by waste stream, with garbage decreasing by 18 percent, organics increasing by 74 percent, and recycling increasing by 7 percent.

Waste per capita was 4.21 pounds per day in 1999, peaked at 5.14 pounds in 2005 and decreased to 4.17 pounds in 2013.

The sharp decline shown between 2008 and 2009, during the Great Recession, is reflected in both statewide and national data and illustrates the effect of the economy on waste generation.

View Figure 3-3 Waste and Population

How Much Waste Is Recycled and Composted?

The primary goals of this Plan are to continue reducing the total quantity of material discarded (waste) and increasing the portion of waste that is recycled or composted.

Of the 36,853 tons of waste collected by the City in 2013, 29 percent (or about 10,960 tons) were recyclable and compostable materials diverted from the landfill. This increase from 20 percent in 2005 falls short of the 65 percent goal set in the 2008 Plan. Still, the overall trend is upward.

Recycling rates are calculated by dividing the sum (by weight) of recyclable and organic materials by the sum of garbage, recyclable and compostable materials. Recycling rates can be affected by a number of factors, many of them beyond the control of Waste ReSources. The types and weights of packaging continue to evolve and change. Beverage containers get lighter, newspapers have fewer pages, and non-recyclable lightweight flexible packaging replaces heavier recyclable rigid containers. Consumer purchasing habits and economy also play a role. The decline in the recycling rate from 2010 to 2011 was likely influenced by a combination of these factors.

Table 3-1 shows the quantities and percentages of recyclable and organic materials and trash hauled by City crews from single-family, multi-family and commercial customers. Trends are illustrated in Figure 3-4.

Table 3-1 Olympia Waste Hauled, 2005 - 2013

 

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

2012

2013

Single-family Recycling

4,680

4,956

4,778

4,778

4,526

4,253

4,176

3,260

3,944

Single-family Organics*

3,763

3,664

3,821

4,125

4,708

5,268

4,937

5,286

5,365

Residential Trash

7,379

7,117

7,166

6,955

6,564

6,365

6,750

6,579

6,227

Total Single-family Residential

15,822

15,737

15,765

15,858

15,796

15,886

15,866

15,824

15,536

Single-family Recovery Rate

53%

55%

55%

56%

58%

60%

57%

58%

60%

Multi-family Recycling

415

420

440

450

468

744

651

690

734

Multi-family Organics**

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

Multi-family Trash

4,894

4,736

4,691

4,598

4,511

4,503

4,082

4,166

4,324

Total Multi-family

5,309

5,156

5,131

5,048

4,979

5,247

4,733

4,856

5,058

Multi-family Recovery Rate

8%

8%

9%

9%

9%

14%

14%

14%

15%

Commercial Recycling***

0

0

0

0

0

4

107

12

0

Commercial Organics

59

192

245

412

528

694

719

796

917

Commercial Trash

24,470

22,496

21,852

19,899

17,312

16,398

16,018

15,933

15,342

Total Commercial

24,529

22,688

22,097

20,311

17,840

17,096

16,844

16,741

16,259

Commercial Recovery Rate

0%

1%

1%

2%

3%

4%

5%

5%

5%

Total Recycling

5,095

5,376

5,218

5,228

4,994

5,001

4,934

4,661

4,678

Total Organics

3,822

3,856

4,066

4,537

5,236

5,962

5,656

6,082

6,282

Total Trash

36,743

34,349

33,709

31,452

28,387

27,266

26,850

26,678

25,893

Totally Olympia

45,660

43,581

42,993

41,217

38,617

38,230

37,440

37,421

36,853

Total Recovery Rate****

20%

21%

22%

24%

26%

29%

28%

29%

29%

* Residential organics includes the City drop off site.

** A small amount of organic material is collected in multi-family waste, but those tons are not yet separated out and are counted as part of residential single-family waste.

*** Commercial recycle tons shown are from materials collected in drop boxes.
**** Total recovery rate excludes commercial recycling collected by private haulers.

View Figure 3-4 Trends in Resources Recover, 2005 to 2013

Commercial Recycling and Composting

The majority of commercial recycling is collected by private companies and not reported to the City; data collected by the State is not broken down by jurisdiction. Because of this, it is not possible to know how much recyclable material is generated and collected from Olympia businesses. Of the waste collected by City crews from commercial customers, the recovery rate for commercial recyclables and compostable material increased from zero to 5 percent during 2005 to 2013. The Residential and Commercial Collection Service Studies (Appendix 5, pages 97 and 98) estimated that the total commercial recycling rate is between 11 and 51 percent.

Residential Recycling and Composting

Olympia does have good data on residential recycling, as detailed in Table 3-1. Trends for single-family and multi-family customers are shown in Figure 3-2. During 2005 to 2013, the recovery rate for single-family households increased from 53 percent to 60 percent. The recovery rate for recycling by multi-family households nearly doubled, from 8 percent to 15 percent. The sharp increase in between 2008 and 2009 can be attributed to the City’s requirement that new multi-family properties provide space and containers for recycling. To this point, Olympia’s most significant influence over its recycling rate has been to make it convenient, while providing education and rate incentives.

View Figure 3-5 Residential Recycling Rates, 2006 to 2013

Who’s Generating the Waste?

As shown in Figure 3-6, the commercial sector accounts for more than half (59%) of the waste sent to the landfill from Olympia. Table 3-2 breaks down in detail the types of waste generated by customer class, number and type of receptacles, total tonnage, number of customers and hauler (City and/or private).

View Figure 3-6 Waste Generation by Customer Type

 

Table 3-2 Olympia Waste and Customer Data

Waste Type

Waste Generator

Receptacle Type*

Receptacles 2013

Total Tons

2013

Customers

2013

Hauler

Residential garbage

Single-family dwellings and
duplexes

Carts

13,885

6,230

12,915

City

Multi-family dwellings

Sometimes carts, mostly dumpsters, drop boxes and compactors

Carts included with single-family and dumpsters included with commercial

4,325

147

City

Residential recyclables**

Single-family dwellings and
duplexes

Carts

12,969

3,950

12,009

City

Multi-family dwellings

Carts

1,134

734

135

(~8,000 households)

City

 

4 cubic yard dumpsters (cardboard only)

53

73

39

City

Residential organics

Mostly
single-family dwellings

Carts

7,487

5,240

7,487

City

Commercial garbage***

Businesses, institutions, government agencies, etc.

Carts/Cans

Included below in dumpster total

Included below in dumpster total

276

City

Dumpsters

1,378

8,390

906

Drop boxes and compacters

Permanent - 101

Temporary - 60 (average)

6,950

Permanent - 101

Temporary - 60

City

Commercial recyclables

Businesses, institutions, government agencies, etc.

Various

Private Unknown

City picks ups 73 containers at City Buildings

Private Unknown

Tons collected by City not calculated

City buildings - 11

Private Unknown

Private recyclers and

City

Commercial Organics

Businesses

Dumpsters and carts

 

400

City 53

Private unknown

City and Private

Commercial Organics

Mostly businesses

Drop boxes

30

300

18

City

Total Generation

 

 

36,853

 

 

Total Recycling

 

 

10,960

 

 

* For operational reasons, the City of Olympia tracks garbage collection on the basis of container type – cart, dumpster or compacter, as well as customer type.

** Includes all “traditional” curbside materials: mixed paper, newspaper, cardboard, glass bottles and jars, aluminum cans, tin cans, PET and HDPE plastic bottles, and milk cartons.

*** Excludes garbage from the Capitol Campus and materials self-hauled to the WARC.

3.3 Waste Composition and Potential for Diversion

Thurston County regularly measures what materials are going to the landfill as garbage, and Olympia participates in these waste sort studies. These percentages are useful because they help estimate the quantities of recyclable materials that could be removed from Olympia’s garbage and recycled or composted instead. (See Appendix 2, Waste Characterization Study)

Figure 3-7 and Table 3-3 summarize how much material taken to the landfill is recyclable or compostable. About 42.5 percent of the waste being landfilled is recyclable or compostable in current programs. This figure does not include materials considered potentially recyclable but for which collection programs do not currently exist.

View Figure 3-7 Composition of Olympia’s Garbage, 2014

 

Table 3-3 Recycle and Composting Potential

Recyclables currently collected

Newspapers, magazines, junk mail, cereal boxes, other mixed papers, cardboard, aluminum and tin cans, plastic bottles, jugs, dairy tubs, buckets and flower pots, milk and juice cartons, glass bottles and drink boxes.

15.5%

Organics currently collected

Yard waste, food scraps and food-soiled paper

27.2%

Recyclable through self-haul or special programs

Metals, textiles, film plastic, some wood and construction debris and electronic waste

24.9%

Non-recyclable

Materials that are unlikely to be recyclable in the near future (e.g. certain types of paper, many plastics and certain types of glass).

32.4%

Total garbage from Olympia

 

100%

Table 3-4 and Table 3-5 show the breakdown of Olympia’s garbage in more detail, based on Thurston County’s 2014 waste sort (Appendix 2).

Table 3-4 shows the how the composition of Olympia’s garbage changed between 2008 and 2014. These data represent all Olympia garbage sent to the landfill.

Overall, the changes are not too dramatic. One has to be careful in drawing too many conclusions from percentages alone. A slight shift in a heavy material can result in a major percentage shift somewhere else.

Shaded areas highlight currently recyclable and compostable materials and potential recyclable materials that could be diverted from the landfill.

Materials marked with an asterisk (*) are currently collected at curbside in Olympia.

Table 3-4 Summary of 2014 Waste Composition Study

 

2008

2014

Paper

17.8%

18.6%

Newspaper*

1.4%

0.8%

Cardboard*

3.4%

3.6%

Other recyclable paper*

5.9%

6.2%

Compostable paper

4.5%

5.4%

Non-recyclable paper

2.6%

2.7%

Plastic

14.6%

14.7%

Plastic bottles*

1.4%

1.6%

Film and bags

4.6%

6.4%

Other plastic

8.6%

6.7%

Wood and C&D

23.1%

9.8%

Wood

14.2%

6.5%

C&D

8.9%

3.3%

Glass

3.7%

3.7%

Glass bottles*

2.7%

2.1%

Other glass

.5%

1.6%

Organics

18%

21.8%

Food waste*

13.6%

19.8%

Yard waste*

4.4%

2.0%

Metal

6.7%

5.5%

Aluminum cans*

0.4%

0.5%

Tin cans*

0.7%

0.7%

Other metals

5.6%

4.3%

Other

15.4%

21.7%

Disposable diapers

1.6%

3.0%

Textiles

2.5%

3.8%

Carpet and padding

1.3%

0.6%

Miscellaneous

10%

14.8%

Special Wastes

1.8%

3.6%

Animal excrement

1.2%

2.9%

Other special waste

0.6%

0.7%

Table 3-5 gives the details for single-family, multi-family and commercial customers. The percentages from the 2014 Thurston County Waste Composition Study are multiplied by the total waste generated in Olympia in 2013 to give the estimated amount of waste by material for each sector

Table 3-5 Waste Composition by Customer Type

 

Single-family Garbage

Multi-family Garbage

Commercial Garbage

Percent

Tons

Percent

Tons

Percent

Tons

Currently recyclable

Newspaper, cardboard and other recyclable paper

6.3%

389

11.3%

489

0.12

1,841

Plastic bottles & Tubs

1.1%

68

2.8%

121

2%

230

Aluminum and tin cans

1.1%

71

2.2%

95

1%

123

Glass bottles

2.6%

160

3.6%

156

2%

245

Currently compostable

Yard debris

2.9%

178

1.0%

43

2%

291

Food waste

25.8%

1,608

20.7%

895

17%

2,639

Food-soiled paper

4.4%

271

3.3%

143

6%

982

 

Subtotal

44.1%

2,747

44.9%

1,941

41.4%

6,352

Potentially recyclable

Other metals,

3.7%

230

3.1%

134

4.9%

752

Wood and C&D debris

3.2%

199

7.1%

307

13.1%

2,010

Plastic film and bags

7.0%

436

4.9%

212

6.6%

1,013

E-waste

0.1%

6

2.4%

104

0.3%

46

Textiles and carpet

5.7%

355

8.3%

359

2.8%

430

 

Subtotal

19.70%

1,227

25.8%

1,116

27.7%

4,250

Non-recyclable

Certain types of paper

2.2%

137

1.9%

82

3.0%

460

Many plastics

5.5%

342

4.9%

212

7.60%

1,166

Certain types of glass

0.4%

25

0.5%

22

2.30%

353

Other (special waste, diapers, misc.)

28.1%

1750

22.1%

956

18.00%

2,762

 

Subtotal

36.20%

2,254

29.4%

1,271

30.9%

4,741

Total

Total

100.02%

6,228

100.10%

4,328

100.00%

15,342

3.4 Summary of Diversion Potential

As discussed above, 42.7 percent of Olympia materials sent to the landfill is recyclable or compostable with current programs. This represents a significant potential for increasing the quantities of materials diverted from the landfill. Materials with the greatest potential are:

•    Curbside and commercial recyclables.

•    Food debris and compostable paper and yard waste.

•    Metals, wood and C&D debris.

•    Other potentially recyclable materials.

Curbside and Commercial Recyclables

An estimated 689 tons of single-family residential, 860 tons of multi-family residential, and 2,439 tons of commercial garbage are materials that are currently recyclable in either Olympia’s curbside residential program, or in programs offered to businesses by private recyclers. In each of these sectors, over half of this material is newspaper, cardboard and recyclable paper.

One of the most straightforward ways to increase residential and multi-family recycling is to provide the opportunity and encourage people to recycle more of their waste. Commercial recycling collection is provided by the private sector and the City does not have information about the level of participation or amounts collected.

This clearly represents a major opportunity to increase diversion from the landfill. However, voluntary encouragement and outreach, while somewhat successful, have not resulted in a significant rise in recyclable material collected during the previous 2008-2013 Plan cycle.

Food Debris, Compostable Paper and Yard Waste

Food debris and compostable paper, along with some remaining yard waste, represents a significant opportunity for increased diversion; about 2,058 tons from single-family, 1,081 from multi-family and 3,912 from commercial waste.

Metals, Wood and C&D Debris

A significant amount of this material ends up in the garbage — 430 tons from residential, 441 tons from multi-family and 2,762 tons from commercial waste. However, not all of it is readily recyclable. Some metals, concrete and brick can sometimes be recycled locally, but other materials must be hauled to the Tacoma area or further. Private companies haul some C&D material to out-of-county processors, but the amount is not known and it is difficult to track. Because Thurston County lacks a mixed C&D waste processor, the economic and logistical hurdles for recycling this material remain high. The fee to empty a truckload of C&D material needs to offset the higher transportation cost. Thurston County Solid Waste has no immediate plans to establish a separate C&D recovery center at the transfer station.

Other Potentially Recyclable Materials

Markets exist in Washington for other materials, such as carpet and padding; various kinds of textiles; certain plastics, such as plastic bags and plastic film; and certain electronic waste. Collection of these materials is by self-haul and, in many cases, drop-off points are limited, not well-promoted or non-existent in Thurston County. Olympia could help increase recycling of these additional materials, by collecting materials at curbside or drop-off points, and providing information to residents and businesses about how to access these markets. The 2009 electronics waste recycling legislation (E-Cycle Washington) was recently amended to include more materials and give consumers a way to recycle computers, laptops, tablets, TV’s, monitors, e-readers, and portable DVD players at no additional cost. Washington is a leader in developing product stewardship legislation and programs that makes manufacturers responsible for recycling difficult-to-recycle products.