Around 75 trash and recycling dumpsters have been tossed by Capitol Hill businesses for high-frequency bag pick ups starting last week. Another 36 dumpsters have been pulled off streets and sidewalks and on to private property.
It’s part of a city-mandated program to improve safety in Capitol Hill’s core restaurant and nightlife area by moving the large metal containers out of the public right-of-way.
Half of the businesses in the corridor — roughly bound by Melrose, E John, E Union, and 15th — were able to keep their dumpsters by storing them on private property. Some of those businesses may still be dragging dumpsters into the street for pickup, but Seattle Public Utilities officials say they should not be out for long and certainly not over night.
“It’s definitely going to make the neighborhood look and feel a lot cleaner,” said SPU spokesperson Becca Fong.
The program is “pay as you throw” — pickup fees are paid by how many bags businesses purchase ahead of time. Trash bags cost more than recycling, which officials hope will encourage more recycling. Compost will stay in bins with frequent pickup and broken down cardboard will be picked up free of charge. Bars and other businesses that need to recycle large amounts of glass will be given bins for regular pickup.
The origins of the program stem from an unlikely source — a recommendation made by Mayor Ed Murray’s LGBTQ safety task force last year, which built off an earlier study by the Capitol Hill EcoDistrict.
A similar program in Belltown called Clean Alleys has largely been seen as a success, though not everyone on Capitol Hill is on board. The bag program operated by Recology CleanScapes costs about 15% more than dumpsters and will bring more trucks into the neighborhood.
Restaurant owner Dave Meinert said in a recent Facebook post the city was not being consistent in its priorities.
Plastic to go bags are banned from restaurants for environmental reasons (a good thing) but now the City wants restaurants to use thick plastic garbage bags instead of dumpsters, which will get picked up 3 times as often, meaning MORE plastic bags and 3x as many garbage truck trips adding to traffic and exhaust problems. Irony?
While the mostly alley-less neighborhood has long dealt with dumpsters in plain view, the issue has been exacerbated in recent years by Capitol Hill’s explosion of construction and new residents. For instance, the dumpsters that accumulated at 11th and Pike had been dispersed across a larger area before three construction sites ate up the space.
After a month of the bag pick up program, SPU officials will be meeting with be taking feedback from business owners. Ideally it will go over better than the official name of the new effort, the Pike/Pine Retail Corridor Solid Waste Site Review Program.