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Would you be OK if the city collected your trash every other week instead of every week? Well like it or not, you might be one of 800 guinea pigs Seattle residents picked for a six-month bi-weekly garbage collection pilot program to see if it increases recycling and composting in the city. Or whether the idea stinks, literally.

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At present, 34,000 tons of food scraps and recyclables make their way into the garbage cans of single-family residences every year.

SPU's Solid Waste Director Tim Croll presented the proposal —estimated to cost $350,000—to the Seattle City Council's Public Utilities and Neighborhoods Committee meeting yesterday. If the full council approves the pilot program, and it is eventually turned into a new way of collectiing trash throughout all of Seattle, it would save the city $6.4 million annually. It would also reduce 20 percent of garbage collection trips made. Weekly yard and food waste collection will still be there. Council Member Mike O'Brien says the proposal is consistent with Seattle's zero waste goals, which aims to recycle 60 percent of waste from the city's garbage stream by 2012. Right now, Seattle is at 51 percent. "We need to get that 9 percent in the next two years," O'Brien says.

Heather Trim of Zero Waste Seattle says that some neighborhoods will be queuing up to take part in the pilot. "People in Seattle want to see reduction of greenhouse gases, so I think it's great," she says.

But what if the city's zero waste goals come back to haunt it—like it happened in Berkeley? That city's aggressive composting and recycling culture led to residents switching to smaller trash cans that, under new rules, were cheaper to have serviced. This led to a decline of $4 million in Berkeley's refuse revenue.

Just like Berkeley, Seattle bills everyone on the size of their trash can.

"You are right that could be a problem, that's why we want to test it first," O'Brien says. "But I don't think it will be a huge problem. We want to see whether people will shift from garbage to more recycling. That will help us to figure out what kind of rates we should set, so that when we vote on it, people won't be surprised."

So what do you think Seattle, would you recycle more if the city picked up your trash less frequently?

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