Shooting for “Zero Waste” in Seattle

I’m late in getting to this story about Seattle’s new “Wasteless in Seattle” initiative which establishes a long-term goal of zero waste through a combination of recycling, take-backs, product stewardship and other initiatives. Putting People First links to the comprehensive plan for a sustainable Seattle, via WorldChanging.

This story reminds me of an idea I had a few years ago about using economic incentives to reduce waste — I don’t think I’ve brought this up here, but correct me if I’m wrong. What if trash collectors charged for their services not as a flat rate (which I think is the most common form), but by weight or volume of trash? Wouldn’t this create an economic incentive for people to throw away less? We could even complicate this a bit more by trash collectors “paying” for recyclables and compostables (which are a commodity, or at least potential commodity, for them), creating the potential for individuals, families and businesses to profit from choosing to recycle rather than throw these things away. I realize this broad idea would create all sorts of logistical challenges, and it may not be economically feasible when these challenges are figured into the equation — clearly, the average trash truck isn’t configured to measure each person’s/family’s/business’ trash. Fire away — am I just nuts?

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