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Cutting the Waste Stream in Half – Fitchburg, WI, Portland, OR, and Seattle

| Written by ILSR Admin | No Comments | Updated on Nov 23, 1999 The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at

These case studies- Fitchburg, WIPortland OR, and Seattle, WA, were conducted by ILSR for the US Environmental Protection Agency, and are part of a larger study called Cutting the Waste Stream in Half: Community Record-Setters Show How (download full report or fact sheet packet). Each case study presents that city’s recycling strategies as well as the laws and policies from which the strategies derive.

Strategies driving record-setting waste reduction levels include:

Targeting a wide range of materials

Accepting a wide range of materials increases the proportion of recoverable waste. Record-setting communities recover 17 to 31 different types of materials. Paper and yard trimmings are especially important. Paper recovery contributes 12 to 45% of residential materials diverted. Composting of yard debris diverts 17 to 43% of total residential waste in these communities.


For many record-setting communities, composting accounts for more than half of all residential waste reduction. Fall leaf collection may be the single largest contributor to waste reduction in communities with fall seasons.

Designing for convenience

Residents are more likely to participate if set-out requirements are uncomplicated and recyclables collection is frequent. Providing adequate containers for material storage and set-out also improves convenience. Providing both curbside collection and drop-off sites for collection gives residents more recycling options. On-site recycling at multi-family buildings makes recycling convenient to more residents.

Using “pay-as-you-throw” trash fees

Under pay-as-you-throw (PAYT) systems, residents pay by volume or weight for trash they set out at the curb. Such fees are a direct economic incentive to reduce trash and recover as much as possible.

Requiring resident participation

Local requirements ad mandates encourage program participation. The majority of record-setters in the ILSR/EPA report have some type of local ordinance requiring residents to source-separate or banning set-out of designated materials with their trash.