Can do? City working with two Capitol Hill clubs after big trash and recycling bills

Seattle Public Utilities says it is working with two Capitol Hill clubs that have racked up big garbage charges after a program to remove dumpsters from Pike/Pine streets was rolled out this fall.

Ownership at Neumos and Chop Suey have complained about large bills, SPU says, after joining other area businesses in the change to three-times-a-day garbage, and twice-a-day recycling pickup using plastic bags in an effort to remove dumpsters from sidewalks and streets to make the neighborhood, officials hope, cleaner and safer.

For some, the program is also more expensive. Neumos co-owner Jason LaJeunesse has complained of what he says is a 255% jump in the club’s garbage bill under the new system which puts the 10th/Pike establishment on pace for more than $4,000 per month in trash and recycling pickup fees. “Have you guys heard any grumblings from business owners about the extreme financial hikes in the city mandated garbage program?” LaJuenesse asked in an email sent to media earlier this month. “Neumos is 35-40k a year more, when we were guaranteed it would be a 17% hike in cost.”

While SPU says Chop Suey has also complained of a big jump, other business owners around Pike/Pine CHS spoke with said the costs were high but in line with past charges.

Heather Staples, who along with her husband Scott, owns Quinn’s and Sole Repair, said their recent bill was in the “top of the range” of what the businesses have seen in the past. Staples said the cost of the bags was an issue. “We think the bulk of the charges relate to the cost of the bags,” she said. “It would be a help if there was a cheaper way to supply that.” The bags used to participate in the program cost $108.75 for a roll of 25 when purchasing five or more rolls. Staples also said the program seems to give the neighborhood’s big mixed-use apartment complexes a free pass as the buildings are still allowed to roll out dumpsters for 24 hours.

The city-mandated program to improve safety in Capitol Hill’s core restaurant and nightlife area by removing the big metal receptacles has resulted in around 75 trash and recycling dumpsters tossed by Capitol Hill businesses and another 36 dumpsters been pulled off streets and sidewalks and on to private property. The program is “pay as you throw” — pickup fees are paid by how many bags businesses purchase ahead of time. Trash bags were planned to cost more than recycling, which officials hoped would encourage more recycling.  The origins of the program stem from a recommendation made by a LGBTQ safety task force last year, which built off an earlier study by the Capitol Hill EcoDistrict.

In response to the complaints from Neumos and Chop Suey, a statement from SPU said similar programs have been operating for years without cost issues in other neighborhoods. “It should be noted that every business in the City’s Clear Alleys Program (CAP) areas—the Downtown Core, Pioneer Square, Columbia City, and the International District—is paying similar costs,” the statement reads. “Those businesses include other big bars such as Crocodile, Trinity, Paramount, Showbox and Triple Door.”

SPU also points to the 60 or so other businesses in the Pike/Pine dumpster-free zone. “Other businesses have worked through various bag location and program management issues successfully,” SPU dryly notes.

A spokesperson for SPU said the agency will work with the big clubs to try to sort out their trash and recycling issues but they shouldn’t expect special treatment. “If we start making exceptions…” the spokesperson started to say before his voice trailed off leaving CHS to imagine the trashy chaos that could consume greater Seattle.

The spokesperson also said it seems likely the big issue at Neumos and Chop Suey might be their clientele — or, more specifically, what those people are drinking. Neumos and Chop Suey’s bags are overflowing with cans, the spokesperson said. Unlike glass which gets special bins for pickup in the service, the cans — especially those tall boys you are so partial to — are bulky and fill SPU’s bags quickly.

We suggest all parties contact the can man:

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17 thoughts on “Can do? City working with two Capitol Hill clubs after big trash and recycling bills

  1. Higher costs to small businesses. Worse for the environment. Why doesn’t this mayor and council care about small business and the environment?

    We should ban plastic bags, no require them.

    • Couldn’t agree more – nothing like adding more plastic to our landfills vs the “reusable” metal garbage dumpsters. Worse yet, all in the name of safety? Seems we are looking at safety from a very wrong angle with this!

  2. Commercial garbage costs are insane in Seattle. The city doesn’t allow for competitive waste management. They give out exclusive franchises based on geographic locations. It is out of control.

  3. I have no sympathy whatsoever for the businesses whose costs have increased. For many years, their trash/recycle operations have caused a significant problem with litter and visual pollution in Pike-Pine. They have looked the other way as their ugly dumpsters overflowed on to public property, and refused to arrange for more frequent pickups.

    Now, they have to be more responsible. Tough luck if it costs them more. Boo-hoo.

    • If you talk with the business owners, they’ll agree there was a problem with the dumpsters. But the problem derived from Cleanscapes, who refused to put the dumpsters back orderly when they emptied them, and refused to keep them locked, which led to people dumpster diving and dumping trash from apartments in them, leading to overflow. Cleanscapes solution is to make more money. Questionable if they messed the dumpsters up on purpose do they could move businesses to the more profitable bag program

    • I don’t agree with Bob, but on the other hand there are business owners that refuse to use the pickup service at all and sneak their trash into any unlocked dumpster available in addition to using the public trash can near bus stops. We started locking our building’s dumpster lid and have had the lock vandalized and lid ripped off by neighboring businesses, apartment buildings and other parties.

    • Chop Suey used to have two huge dumpsters that lived on the 14th Ave sidewalk and blocked the walking path, glad to have those gone. PBR and Rainier also come in kegs so maybe it is time to switch to draft and lose the cans.

  4. Back in the 90s (was it that long ago?) Commercial clients had a choice of two garbage companies. When they convinced the city to let them divide everything into separate North/South zones, they promised the rates would go down because “efficiency”. The quality of service went down hill fast after that, and there was no way to switch when they kept missing your dumpster. As Ian brought up, we really should go back to a competitive garbage collection market.

    • We’re lucky to have Cleanscapes here as bad as they are. At another location we have Waste Management. They charge about $70 a trip to unlock a dumpster when they pickup. We have to leave it unlocked the night before and risk the whole neighborhood dumping their trash in it. We totally need a competitive collection market or at least a more regulated marketplace with an ombudsmen from the city involved. It’s like Comcast’s cable franchise – it needs work!

  5. The sidewalk outside Chop Suey used to be blocked by stinking, overflowing dumpsters until the recent change to bag pickup, which is a big improvement if you live nearby and need to walk on that sidewalk. There is still a big problem with cigarette butts all over the same sidewalk outside Chop Suey, Diesel, and Bar Sue, as well as cracked and broken sidewalks. Those businesses do not seem to clean up after themselves at all.

  6. I am a neighbor to Chop Suey and they have a two year history of making the sidewalk beside their building a cesspool of filth, with their two huge, leaking, often overflowing dumpsters blocking 3/4’s of the narrow sidewalk, often surrounded by trash they didn’t bother to toss in the can. It’s been a very consistent problem to anyone walking down that block. The city somehow gave they a pass when they remodelded, which should have required them to move their dumsters inside. All I can say is they brought it on themselves. I am very happy to see the sidewalk passable and now walkable. Thank you city administrators.

    • Thanks for your spot-on comments. Business owners often blame some mysterious strangers for their overflowing dumpsters. I’m not saying this doesn’t happen, but most of the time the businesses themselves are the culprits. And it is their responsibility to keep their dumpsters locked at all times (not Cleanscapes).

  7. I would like to see the city move in the direction of Northern European cities and install a system of underground garbage/recycling/compost vaults that is accessed by keycard.

    This cleans up the streetscape, allows refuse to be collected less frequently and ensures proper tracking of use.