Chapter 5 – Collections Program

The Waste ReSources Collections staff collects garbage from all residents and businesses within the City’s service area, recyclable materials from single and multi-family residences, and compostable materials from residences and some businesses. Public collection ensures that Olympia’s waste is disposed of reliably and cost effectively, with minimal impact on environmental and public health and worker safety (Goals 3 and 4). The Waste Prevention and Reduction staff develops and maintains education and outreach programs to encourage waste reduction, reuse and recycling (Goals 1 and 2) (Chapter 6).

In addition to regular residential and commercial collection, Waste ReSources staff empty Downtown trash containers, remove waste from community events, and clean up illegal dumping. They design collection routes, provide onsite technical assistance and customer service, deliver and remove City-owned waste receptacles, and handle billing for drop boxes and commercial dumpsters.

5.1 Collection Operations

The Collections Program is currently budgeted for 21 full-time employees: a supervisor, two lead workers, two maintenance workers and 16 refuse collectors.

Customers and Equipment

The Collections Program serves over 13,500 single-family residential customers, 147 multi-family properties, and over 1,300 commercial customers. Single-family residential waste is collected in carts. Most garbage from multi-family customers is collected in dumpsters; a few customers have compactors or carts. Multi-family recyclables are collected in carts; cardboard in front-loaded dumpsters. Waste from commercial customers is collected in carts, cans, dumpsters, drop boxes, or compactors.

Waste ReSources operates a fleet of 15 heavy-duty vehicles. Figure 5-1 shows the four truck types.

•    Six fully automated side-load refuse trucks for residential carts on four routes and one for multi-family recyclables; one serves as a spare.

•    Three front-load refuse trucks for commercial containers on two routes; one serves as a spare.

•    Two rear-load refuse trucks for commercial containers (dumpsters and carts).

•    Three roll-off drop-box trucks; one serves as a spare.

View Figure 5-1 Waste ReSources Collection Trucks

Residential Collection Areas

Figure 5-2 shows the four residential collection areas. Tuesday through Friday, four automated trucks collect garbage or recycling on alternating weeks. These same trucks collect organic materials from one-half of the City on Mondays. This balance has proven effective for over a decade.

View Figure 5-2 Residential Collection Areas

Operational Efficiency Improvements

Waste ReSources started collecting residential recyclables at the curb in 1988, multi-family recyclables in 1994, and yard debris in 1996. Since 1998, the Utility has focused on improvements designed to collect all types of waste more efficiently and with maximum safety for workers. The most recent improvement is one-side road collection to reduce miles driven and time spent collecting residential waste. These changes allow the Utility to be more cost effective by absorbing customer growth without additional trucks and staff. The City’s switch to every-other-week residential service in 1998 is still considered a model for efficiency.

In 2009, the City began offering commercial organics collection to its customers. Because of efficiencies gained by switching to mostly front-load commercial garbage collection in 2004, Waste ReSources was able to provide this service with existing trucks and equipment. Commercial organics collection is performed by the rear loading truck crew, who also pick up garbage in the Downtown core, and other select areas where front-load does not work.

In 2011, to further increase safety and reduce driver incidents, Waste ReSources worked with the International Academy for Professional Drivers (IAPD) to adapt its training program for drivers of solid waste collection trucks. Two staff members are certified driver trainers who can administer annual certification to collectors. Since implementing driver training, incidents have dropped from a high of 35 in 2010 to 22 in 2013. Drivers are encouraged to report even the smallest incident for review, to better understand how to eliminate them in the future.

Since 1998, improved efficiency in residential collection has resulted in a 60 percent decrease in the number of trucks and staff required, despite a 20 percent increase in the number of customers (Figure 5-3). Table 5-1 shows the results of each major improvement in collection efficiency.

Table 5-1 Key Collection Improvements





Alternating every-other-week garbage and recyclables pick up and cart-based collection

•    Reduced trucks and staff

•    Increased recycling

•    Added all plastic bottles to curbside collection

•    Changed from 3-bin system to a single 2-compartment cart to keep paper material separate from metal, plastic and glass containers


Fully-automated collection and single-stream recycling

•    Reduced trucks and staff

•    Increased customer convenience

•    Reduced worker hazards and injuries


Front-load commercial

•    Reduced staff

•    Reduced worker hazards and injuries

•    Increased collection efficiency


Added food scraps to yard waste

•    Increased diversion

•    Increased customer convenience


Implemented commercial organics

•    Increased diversion

•    Customer convenience

•    New service without additional trucks and staff

2011 – Current

One-side road collection

•    Reduced miles driven

•    Reduced fuel consumption

•    Absorbed growth absorbed without adding trucks and staff

View Figure 5-3 Increase in Residential Collection Efficiency, 1997 to 2013

Operational Challenges

The remaining challenges for continued operational improvements are listed below:

•    Front-load collection does not work for all business locations, particularly in the Downtown area where collection is often in narrow alleys.

•    Rear-load collection uses a smaller, more maneuverable truck with a two-person collection crew to access narrow alleys and locations with limited space. This collection method is more costly to operate than the single-person front-load truck. See Appendix 5, Residential and Commercial Collection Studies, for details.

•    Waste ReSources relies on printed maps and customer route sheets for routing. Adding an onboard, computerized routing system to collection trucks would improve collection efficiency and customer service.

•    Waste ReSources collects commercial and residential organic materials on Mondays only. This system is nearing operational capacity for the current complement of trucks and drivers. Adding resources and collection days may be necessary to accommodate customer growth and a growing demand for service.

•    Commercial, multi-family and mixed-use buildings are all different in terms of size, amount and type of waste generated, and space for containers. Waste ReSources works closely with its customers and the City’s Community Planning and Development Department to ensure adequate garbage and recycling collection for each customer. This effort is time-consuming and requires constant tending.

•    Nearly all waste (garbage, recyclable and organic materials) requires shipping to facilities and processors outside Thurston County. For most material, the Utility relies on a single location for dumping collection vehicles and some of these transfer sites have only a single-source outlet.

•    The nearest C&D processor is in Tacoma.

5.2 Materials Collected by Waste ReSources

Within the City of Olympia, Waste ReSources collects all garbage, residential recyclable and organic material, some commercial organics, and some separated C&D debris. Any waste not separated for recycling is legally considered “garbage,” and thus can be regulated by the City. By law, the City can also regulate collection of residential source-separated recycled materials. However, commercial source-separated materials can be collected and hauled by anyone who is willing and able.

This section details how garbage, recyclable and organic materials, and C&D debris are collected.


Waste ReSources provides garbage collection service to all residents and businesses within the service area (Chapter 3, Figure 3-1). The Olympia Municipal Code (OMC 13.12) provides that “the collection, removal and disposal of garbage and refuse within the City are universal and compulsory.” In other words, all residents and businesses must pay for at least minimum garbage collection service.

Single-family garbage is collected every other week, and residents may choose a 20-, 35-, 65- or 95-gallon cart. Multi-family buildings and businesses may choose different container sizes and collection frequencies, depending on their needs.


Waste ReSources collects recyclable materials from single and multi-family customers, at the City’s Saturday drop-off site, and at special events. The Utility offers single-stream commingled recycling collection every other week to all single-family residences, and collects garbage on alternate weeks. Most multi-family recyclables are picked up weekly, some every other week, based on each customer’s need.

Materials collected are: newspaper, cardboard, mixed paper (including junk mail, magazines and phone books), glass bottles and jars, aluminum cans, tin cans, plastic bottles, dairy tubs, flower pots and buckets, and polycoated/asceptic milk cartons and drink boxes.

Although voluntary, participation rates are high. Over 99 percent of the City’s 14,000 single-family residences have recycling carts. More than 135 multi-family establishments with about 8,000 households subscribe to recycling. Residential customers can choose 35-, 65- or 95-gallon carts for recycling service. Multi-family buildings use 95-gallon carts.

Private haulers collect traditional recyclables, including clean paper, cardboard, cans, plastics, and glass from commercial customers. The City and private companies collect other specific materials such as construction debris, scrap metal and rubble.

Organic Material — Food and Yard Debris

Organic materials, including yard debris, food waste and food-soiled paper, are collected regularly from residents and businesses. Yard waste is also accepted on Saturdays at the City drop-off site.

The City collects organic materials from both residential and commercial customers. Single-family service is provided in 95-gallon carts for a separate fee. The service is voluntary, and approximately 54 percent of the City’s single-family residences subscribe. Businesses can subscribe to the commercial organics service for a separate fee and can choose 95-gallon carts and 1-, 1.5- and 2-cubic yard dumpsters.

About 70 businesses subscribe to Olympia’s commercial organics program. Businesses can also choose to have organic materials collected by a private hauler. The number of customers and tons collected by private companies is not known. Organic materials collection service is available to multi-family customers, but is not heavily promoted or widely used.

Businesses and residents can also obtain temporary container service for large quantities of yard debris. The City provides free Christmas tree pick up in January for all residents, including apartments and condominiums.

Construction and Demolition Debris

Waste ReSources collects mixed C&D debris for disposal, and some separated C&D debris for recycling. Recycling of C&D materials depends on the current markets. Currently, local markets only exist for metal, concrete, brick, and rubble. C&D debris is accumulated in temporary containers placed at the job site and picked up on request.

5.3 Transfer, Processing and Disposal

Waste ReSources relies on Thurston County and private facilities to take the material it collects. Thurston County is responsible for the transfer, processing and disposal of all garbage and yard debris that is collected by Waste ReSources within Olympia, and by private haulers elsewhere in the County.

Figure 5-4 shows the location of key waste management facilities serving Olympia and Thurston County. For a summary of key dates in the development of these facilities, see Chapter 4, Section 4.1.

This section describes what happens to Olympia’s garbage, recyclable and organic material, and C&D after it is collected by Waste ReSources.

View Figure 5-4 Waste Management Facilities

Waste and Recovery Center (WARC)

Thurston County owns the Waste and Recovery Center (WARC) at Hawks Prairie in Lacey. The County contracts with Allied Waste Services for transfer, transport and landfilling of garbage; and for transfer, hauling and composting of yard debris. The WARC is operated by Waste Connections/LeMay Enterprises under a subcontract with Allied Waste.

The current 20-year contract between the County and Allied Waste expires in 2019, with an option to negotiate a renewal. The contract requires Allied Waste to recycle at least 4 percent of the garbage and construction debris (dumped alongside garbage) delivered to the WARC. It includes incentives to achieve greater than 5 percent.

Garbage, Organic Material and C&D Debris

Olympia’s collection trucks deliver garbage, organic materials (yard debris and food waste) and construction debris to the WARC. C&D debris is listed under garbage on the County’s website and dumped in the same location for the same fee; it may or may not be sorted for recycling.

The City pays a tip fee, which is currently about $119 per ton for garbage and C&D, and $37 per ton for organics (over 10 cubic yards). Tip fees for garbage and C&D have increased by about 65 percent since 2008. Tip fees for organic materials have not changed for five years, but the County has indicated the fee may increase significantly in the near future, to offset rising costs of shipping mixed organics to composting facilities.

Garbage and non-recyclable C&D is compacted into large containers and hauled to the railhead in Centralia. From there, it is transported by rail to the Roosevelt Regional Landfill in Klickitat County, which is operated by Rabanco, an Allied Waste subsidiary.

Organic materials delivered to WARC are ground for transport. Most materials are sent to one of three large-scale composting facilities in Washington, depending on the material composition and markets. These facilities are: Silver Springs Organics, near Rainer in Thurston County; Royal Organics, east of Ellensburg; or Lenz Organics, near Stanwood. Woody debris can also be chipped and turned into hog fuel and burned at industrial sites for energy.

Recyclable Materials

Waste ReSources delivers recyclable materials from its residential customers to Waste Connections/LeMay, adjacent to the WARC. Then they are shipped by long-haul truck to the regional Materials Recovery Facility near Tacoma for sorting. Commercially generated recyclables are delivered to Waste Connections/LeMay and shipped to the same sorting facility. A few exceptions include State offices and others who self-haul.

Drop-off Services

The WARC is open seven days a week for self-haulers to drop off garbage, recyclables, yard debris, and special wastes (see below). Drop-off of curbside recyclables is free. Customers pay a fee for garbage, yard debris and some special wastes.

Special Waste Services

Olympia residents may drop off a variety of other items at the WARC free or for a reduced fee. These include refrigerators and other appliances, TVs, computer monitors and other electronic equipment, tires, scrap metal, furniture, and reusable items.

The County operates a household hazardous waste collection facility, “HazoHouse”, at the WARC, which accepts household hazardous waste from County residents for free. In addition, the County operates a “Wastemobile” for household hazardous waste. The “Wastemobile” is now used to serve parts of the County where disposal is far less convenient than in the larger urban areas.

The WARC also accepts asbestos-containing waste with advance notice and special preparation, for a fee higher than the normal garbage rate.

In addition, the County Environmental Health Division coordinates educational outreach and assistance to small quantity generators throughout the County, as part of its Moderate Risk Waste Management.