Chapter 9 – Recycling and Composting

Goal 2

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

This chapter presents the objectives and strategies for increasing the quantity of waste recycled and composted in Olympia over the next six years. The objectives and strategies are in response to challenges and opportunities described in Chapter 7.

As discussed in Chapter 3, the single-family residential recycling rate is about 60 percent, while the multi-family rate is around 15 percent. About 6 percent of the commercial waste collected by Olympia crews is compostable, but data on commercial recycling collected by private companies is unknown. Of total waste hauled by Waste ReSources, about 30 percent is recyclable. Adding in commercial recycling would make this total higher. Since large quantities of currently and potentially recyclable materials, particularly paper, food waste and construction debris, are currently disposed of at the landfill, a significant opportunity to increase diversion of waste remains (Chapter 3, Table 3-3).

By implementing this Plan, Waste ReSources aims to increase the recycled and composted portion of the total waste generated in Olympia. Diverting half the recyclables and compostables that now end up in the landfill (5,700 additional tons) would increase the known diversion rate from 30 to 45 percent. Adding in recyclables hauled by private companies could push the recycle rate to 60 percent or more.

The objectives planned to accomplish this total impact are:

•    Evaluate and understand waste stream characteristics and customer disposal behaviors.

•    Increase the quantity and quality of recyclable and compostable materials collected from single-family residents.

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

•    Increase the quantity and quality of recyclable and compostable materials collected from commercial customers.

•    Increase diversion of C&D material.

•    Increase the quantity and quality of materials recycled and composted through non-curbside methods.

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

Knowing the quantity and composition of each waste stream (garbage, recyclables and organic materials), as well as quantities disposed by customer type, is an important step in understanding customer disposal behaviors. Better data will help Waste ReSources evaluate program effectiveness, adapt work efforts more strategically, and track progress toward Zero Waste goals. Detailed results of research on data, measurements and recommendations can be found in Appendix 4, Data and Measurement, a technical memo by Cascadia Consulting Group.

Result Measure 9-1 Waste Stream Data


•    At least one comprehensive garbage sort completed every four to five years.

•    Residential recycle sort completed annually.

•    At least 10 days of lid lifts completed.

•    Data on commercial recyclables and C&D debris hauled by private companies is known by Waste ReSources.

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

In-depth waste studies help communities understand disposal patterns over time. Working with Thurston County is a cost-effective way for Waste ReSources to obtain Olympia-specific data on landfilled waste, recyclable and organic materials.

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 dumpster containers.

These data are helpful in tracking the overall disposal and recycling rate for the multi-family sector. Normally multi-family and commercial waste is collected together in the same truck.

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

Olympia lacks data on commercial recycling and C&D debris, because most this material is hauled and processed by private companies. These data are critical for understanding the success of recycling and diversion in Olympia. A first step is to work with Thurston County Solid Waste, Recovery 1, and other facilities that accept C&D debris and recyclable material from within Olympia city limits. Data is needed on the quantity of C&D material generated by building and demolition projects in Olympia, including material self-hauled by construction and demolition companies. Additionally, Waste ReSources work with private recycler haulers to gather data on traditional recyclables collected in Olympia.

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

If Strategy 2A3 is unsuccessful at getting adequate data, require private companies that haul recyclables, organic and C&D material to register with the City and to report annual quantities of each type of material collected and where materials were delivered. This strategy will allow Waste ReSources to accurately calculate the overall commercial recycling rate, thereby measuring the overall effectiveness of its Zero Waste programs. The requirement would apply to any material such as traditional recyclables, organic materials and C&D debris.

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

This strategy involves staying current on best practices for recycling motivation and, as opportunities present themselves, conducting smaller, targeted research projects at events or in neighborhoods.

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

Use garbage, recyclable and organics composition and tonnage data with EPA’s WaRM model or a similar tool to calculate the benefits associated with recycling and composting. Waste ReSources has used these tools in the past and found them to be helpful decision-making tools.

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

Olympia does not receive documentation of sorting results from the recycle processing facility. The reported composition appears inconsistent with historical trends in packaging and historic composition of recyclables collected by Waste ReSources. Conducting an independent sort would help Waste ReSources understand what is actually recycled. These data would be useful when seeking out the best value in recyclables. (See Appendix 4, Data and Measurement, and Appendix 5, Residential and Commercial Collection Service Studies.)

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

The most common method for tracking success of a recycling program is based on calculating the total amount collected as recyclable, against how much total material is collected as garbage. Capture rates compare the amount of specific recyclable materials collected versus the amount of those same recyclables in the garbage. This method presents a fairly accurate picture of how well residents are managing recyclable materials.

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

Olympia has been very successful with residential recycling, and Waste ReSources wants to continue building on that success. Educational programs and convenience have brought the City’s single-family recycling rate to 60 percent in 2013. However, substantial amounts of curbside recyclables are still showing up in the garbage (Chapter 3, Table 3-1).

Successful implementation of this objective would increase the proportion of recyclables and compostable materials collected from single-family residences from 60 to 70 percent. This can be accomplished by capturing half of the 2,858 tons of single-family recyclable and organic material currently sent to the landfill, collecting an additional 1,429 tons at curbside.

Appendix 5, the Residential and Commercial Collection Service Studies from Cascadia Consulting, describes Olympia’s current recycling programs, research on strategies for increasing recycling, and strategies recommended for Olympia. Appendix 8 also contains strategies recommended for increasing the amount of material recycled by single-family residents.

Result Measure 9-2 Single-Family Recycling Rate


Single-Family Recycling Rate

Baseline 2013


Target 2020


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

Provide ongoing technical assistance, respond to customer inquiries and keep educational materials and web-based information current.

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

This strategy involves periodic visual inspection of all material streams (garbage, recyclables and organics) and providing feedback to residents to ensure materials are put in the proper container. The can be route-specific, as needed.

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

The Cost of Collection Service Study (Appendix 5) showed that collecting glass separately would increase residential collection costs by about $199,000 annually, or a 5 percent increase. This does not include the initial cost of supplying carts to each household or adding a truck and driver. The assumption is that separation would only capture roughly half of the glass disposed of. Waste ReSources will continue to monitor and consider additional research and findings, as it becomes available. (See Challenges, Chapter 7, Section 7.2.)

Strategy 2B4 Consider banning easily recyclable materials from garbage.

Focus on recyclables with strong markets, which continue to be landfilled in large quantities. Easily recycled materials include aluminum containers, tin cans, newspaper, and cardboard. Bans have been implemented in other communities when voluntary efforts have proved unsuccessful.

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

Olympia has been very successful with multi-family recycling and Waste ReSources wants to build on that success. In the past six years, educational campaigns and convenient multi-family collection have nearly doubled the City’s multi-family recycling rate to almost 15 percent (without organics). However, substantial quantities of recyclable material are still showing up in the garbage. For example, an estimated 12.1 percent of multi-family garbage is recyclable paper, and another 900 tons is compostable food waste (Chapter 3, Table 3-3). Successful implementation of this strategy would result in diverting an additional 970 tons of waste from the residential garbage.

This objective aims to increase the multi-family recycling rate from 15 to at least 30 percent, and virtually eliminate recyclable paper from the multi-family garbage. This can be achieved by capturing 970 of the estimated 1,941 tons of recyclables currently disposed of as garbage.

Appendix 5, Residential and Commercial Collection Service Studies, describes Olympia’s current recycling programs, as well as explains research on strategies to increase recycling, and strategies recommended for Olympia.

Research on best practices for increasing multi-family recycling and recommended strategies are in Appendix 6, Multi-family Recycling Strategies.

Result Measure 9-3 Multi-Family Recycling Rate


Multi-family Recycling Rate

Baseline 2013


Target 2020


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

The City’s cart-based collection system for commingled recycling has been in place since the mid 1990’s. Cart-based collection makes it possible for many older multi-family properties with limited space for containers to provide recycling to residents. It also standardizes the collection system with single-family services, so that both single and multi-family recycling is collected by the same trucks.

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

Regular contact with property managers is an important step in keeping both managers and residents engaged. This strategy builds upon the existing outreach program and materials by adding annual status reports, enhancing materials, considering limited English-speaking and multi-cultural residents, and refining the property contacts database. Staff will also continue to identify complexes with high levels of contamination and overflow issues, and follow up with a targeted approach.

Strategy 2C3 Facilitate product and material collection for reuse and refurbishment.

Frequent turnover at apartments results in purging highly useable materials including clothing, textiles, household goods, furniture, and other bulky items. This strategy would explore options to keep this material out of dumpsters.

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

Other communities have used door-to-door outreach effectively. However, it is labor intensive and requires property management approval. Olympia tried it in 2009 with limited success. It is an opportunity worth exploring again.

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

As shown in Chapter 3, commercial businesses, public agencies and other institutions generate 59 percent of the City’s waste sent to the landfill. Substantial quantities of recyclables are showing up in the commercial garbage. For example, about 10 percent of commercial garbage is recyclable paper, and another 6 percent is recyclable containers (Chapter 3, Table 3-3).

The City has limited ability to influence commercial recycling because it does not provide commercial recycling service and does not have exclusive authority over recycling collection, as it does with garbage. Waste ReSources can only estimate quantities of commercial recycling because haulers do not report data to the City. The commercial recycling rate is estimated between 16 and 50 percent; 16 percent is the known rate of commercial organics collected by the City and amounts confirmed by private haulers. (See Appendix 5, Residential and Commercial Service Studies, pages 97 and 98.)

Achieving this objective would divert an additional 3,283 tons of waste from the commercial garbage. This is half of the estimated 6,566 tons of recyclable and compostable material currently sent to the landfill from commercial customers. Implementing strategies to obtain recycle and compost data hauled by private companies would improve data collection and measurement (Objective 2B). Accurately measuring progress on this objective will depend on obtaining reliable data from private haulers.

Appendix 5, the Residential and Commercial Collection Service Studies from Cascadia Consulting, describes Olympia’s current recycling programs, research on strategies for increasing recycling, and strategies recommended for Olympia. Appendix 8 also contains a comprehensive list of potential recycling strategies.

Result Measure 9-4 Commercial Recycling Rate


Commercial Recycle Rate

Baseline 2013

16% (known minimum)

Target 2020


Note: Measure of the total commercial recycling rate depends upon receiving accurate data from private haulers.

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

This strategy involves engaging stakeholders and continuing to evaluate whether to charge a separate fee for this service or bundle it into the garbage rate. This strategy will ease Olympia into commercial recycling, by focusing on low-volume recyclers who might not otherwise subscribe to the service. All customers would still have the option to get recycling service from private companies.

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

High-volume commercial food waste customers present the greatest opportunity for organics diversion. Through waste assessments and customer inquiries, Waste ReSources will continue to work with these customers to overcome barriers to participation.

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

This strategy enhances the current outreach to include developing case studies, creating a model purchasing guide and additional literature, using a database tool for tracking participation, publishing materials in languages other than English, and possibly using social media tools. Other planned activities include focusing on “light touch” contact to all businesses and developing an organics training program.

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

Waste ReSources staff will work with other City departments to conduct onsite waste audits, and provide additional technical assistance and education, as needed. This strategy encourages the City to “walk its talk”.

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

Waste ReSources staff will continue to coordinate outreach efforts with other City environmental staff. One approach is for all staff to learn to recognize common conservation opportunities and provide referrals to each other.

Objective 2E Increase diversion of C&D material.

C&D debris is often collected at job sites by private haulers. The amount of C&D waste and where it is delivered is not known. However, as explained in Chapter 3, recycling of these materials is not always cost-effective, and significant quantities are sent to the landfill as garbage. Recyclable metals, wood and C&D debris make up about 15 percent of commercial garbage, 7 percent of residential and 10 percent of multi-family garbage. (See Chapter 3, Table 3-3 and Appendix 2, City of Olympia Waste Characterization Study).

This objective focuses on the commercial generation of C&D debris. Successful implementation would divert an additional 1,381 tons from the commercial garbage. This target assumes that about half of the estimated 2,762 tons of C&D debris found in the garbage in 2013 can be diverted.

Appendix 7, Construction and Demolition Debris Reuse and Recycling, describes Olympia’s current C&D debris recycling program, research on strategies for increasing C&D debris recycling by other West Coast jurisdictions, and strategies recommended for Olympia.

Result Measure 9-5 Quantity of C&D Material Sent to Landfill


C&D Material in Garbage

Baseline 2013

2,762 tons

Target 2020

1,381 tons or fewer

Note: Quantity calculated based on Thurston County Waste Characterization Studies.

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

Seek out opportunities for City crews to haul C&D waste to out-of-county processors. Perform a cost and benefit analysis of the feasibility of providing such a service long term.

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

Waste ReSources has not actively promoted C&D recovery, in the past. A tool kit would include a combination of print and web-based materials that will provide information and be part of a larger marketing campaign.

Strategy 2E3 Promote C&D recycling to builders.

After developing a toolkit, Waste ReSources will promote C&D recycling through the Community Planning & Development permit counter, on City webpages, and through construction industry organizations and publications. Waste ReSources will also partner with Thurston County to the extent feasible.

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

This approach would help ensure source separation of C&D material on construction and demolition sites.

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

Waste ReSources has been very successful with event recycling, Zero Waste events, pedestrian recycling, and the Saturday drop-off site, and plans to continue building upon success.

Nearly all public events (28 of 30 in 2014) participate in recycling and composting. Nearly 15 percent of the waste from these events was recycled. The number of smaller public and private Zero Waste Events, where the City provides recycling materials and bins, has grown to over 60 events annually. In 2012 and 2013, 15 pedestrian recycling containers were installed in Downtown Olympia, collecting about 3.6 tons of recyclable material each year. While not a significant amount, these bins provide convenient opportunities for downtown pedestrians to recycle their waste.

The City operates a Saturday drop-off site for yard waste (fee-based) and traditional recyclables and scrap metal (free). In 2014, over 900 customers dropped off nearly 120 tons of material.

Note: Includes Saturday drop-off site, major public events and smaller public/private Zero Waste events.

Result Measure 9-6 Quantity of Recyclables Collected by Non-Curbside Methods


Tons Recycled through Non-curbside Methods

Baseline 2013


Target 2020


Strategy 2F1 Continue exploring an expanded drop-off recycling site within City limits.

This strategy suggests developing a recycling and sustainability center at the old City Hall Fire Training Pad site. The site would be open more than one day a week, accept a broader range of materials, and serve as a transfer station for recyclables. It would also be a site for community “amnesty day” events for drop-off of hard-to-recycle items.

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

This strategy involves supplementing the existing Zero Waste Event materials with a more extensive toolkit containing information and tips on waste prevention, using durables, donating edible food, and setting waste diversion and prevention goals.

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

Signing up for event recycling is a voluntary part of the City’s event permit process. Waste ReSources will enhance the existing event recycling program by encouraging vendors to collect compostable material and offering tips on waste prevention, such as donating edible food, and setting waste diversion and prevention goals. If expanded to include collection of organic material, a compostable container requirement may need to be implemented.