Chapter 8 – Waste Reduction

Goal 1

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

This chapter presents the objectives and strategies for reducing the total quantity of waste generated in Olympia over the next six years. The objective and strategies are in response to challenges and opportunities described in Chapter 7.

Between 2005 and 2013, the total quantity of waste generated in Olympia decreased by about 8 percent, even though population increased by nearly 12 percent. Between 1999 and 2013, total waste increased by about 9 percent, from 32,000 to nearly 37,000 tons, while population increased by 16 percent. Waste per capita was 4.21 pounds per day in 1999; it peaked at 5.14 pounds in 2005, and decreased to 4.17 pounds in 2013. (See Chapter 3, Section 3.2.)

If individuals and businesses are able to reduce the amount of materials they send to the landfill, waste reduction may eventually outpace waste increases, due to population growth. Over time, the size of the total “pile” of waste could be reduced and eventually eliminated despite the increase in population. Ideally, the only remaining “waste” would be recycled or composted, and no garbage would be left to send to the landfill. See Chapter 2, Section 2.1.

Assuming that waste generation increases at the same rate as population growth (1.5 percent per year), the total waste in 6 years would be over 40,000 tons. A rise in per capita generation could increase that amount dramatically.

Objective 1A Reduce per capita waste by 5 percent.

In the short term, from 2015 to 2020, Waste ReSources will focus on reducing the amount of waste per person by 5 percent, from 4.17 pounds per day to 3.7 pounds per day.

This objective aims to reduce waste “downstream” by influencing the behavior and consumption values of residential and business waste generators. Waste ReSources programs will aim to influence Olympia residents and businesses to make product choices that create less waste, use fewer natural resources and are less hazardous.

The City will also support regional and national efforts to prevent waste “upstream” by influencing extraction, manufacturing, transportation and distribution practices.

Result Measure 1 Per Capita Waste

Measure of Success

Waste Per/Capita (pounds per day)

Baseline 2013


Target 2020

3.7 or less

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

Waste prevention is one of the most challenging aspects of the waste reduction goal. It is a paradigm shift, placing entrenched consumer values and product marketing against a waste reduction mindset and practice. Waste ReSources will include waste prevention messaging and opportunities into its existing outreach, as well as continue to work with Thurston County on its food rescue program to promote edible food donation by businesses and food waste prevention by residents and businesses. Waste prevention also includes continuing to coordinate with Thurston County’s Environmental Health on hazardous waste education and reduction programs.

Strategy 1A2 Continue to promote grasscycling and onsite composting.

Continue to encourage residents to grasscycle and compost in their back yards to reduce the quantity of organic materials placed at the curb. This strategy also involves working with other City departments that encourage natural yard care.

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

The existing program for educating students about waste reduction, reuse and recycling will be adapted to other grades through student environmental programs. A natural progression begins with middle schools and moves onto high school. This could involve collaborating with Thurston County’s school education program.

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

Establish guidelines and create tools to help City departments find greener options in purchasing, including instructions for finding greener options from the vendors most commonly used by City departments, and sample language to include in procurement contracts. Encourage private businesses to adopt similar procurement policies.

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

Work in partnership with local organizations to support reuse, repair, sharing, and short-term renting. Examples include Fix-It Fairs, product lending libraries, community swaps, and encouraging reuse and repair of bulky items.

Strategy 1A6 Support extended producer responsibility programs.

Support producer responsibility programs in partnership with Thurston County, other municipalities and Washington State.

Strategy 1A7 Explore material and packaging bans.

In July 2014, in response to environmental concerns and public support, a single-use plastic bag ban went into effect in Olympia, Tumwater, Lacey and unincorporated Thurston County. Material and packaging bans for other items such as Styrofoam take-out containers have been banned in other communities. This strategy will explore banning additional products and materials, if it makes environmental, economic and social sense.