2016 Supplement to the Solid Waste Management Plan

Our Culture

Culture Goal
We are a community of invested, active participants working together to reduce waste.
This goal addresses our behaviors and individual roles within the solid waste management system. It aims to improve everyone's understanding of how the system works, allowing us to make better, smarter decisions to avoid waste generation first and manage waste responsibly second.
Culture Objectives
C-1 Materials management service providers use consistent language and key messages in interactions with stakeholders and customers.
C-2 Pierce County has a formalized framework to guide selection of strategies used to engage residents and stakeholders in decisionmaking.
C-3 Wasted food is reduced, meeting targets established by annual waste audits.
C-4 The quantity of targeted single use items in the waste stream is reduced.
C-5 The quality of participation in garbage, recycling and organics collection services increases annually in targeted customer types.
C-6 Our community demonstrates an increased working knowledge of how individual behaviors and choices affect the system and the world around us.

Single Use Items
Single use items are designed for convenience, but not recycling. Landfill disposal is the only option for most of these items and "disposable" is often part of the name. Paper plates, plastic silverware, to-go cups, coffee pods, etc. Resources are used to continually create these items. Then, more are used to dispose of them after just one use. These items make up a large portion of our waste stream and could be avoided by using durable goods that have longer and more robust life spans.
k-cup diagram+
Example: K-Cups®
Almost one in three American homes now has a pod-based coffee machine. It's a convenient way to make a quick single serving of coffee. That convenience can sometimes create problems.
Each little cup contains four types of material. They can't be recycled as is and it isn't easy or practical to separate the materials out.
Single Use Cups in Pierce County
We sorted single use cups into their own category for our 2017 waste sort. What did we find? A conservative estimate is that 1,580 tons of single-serve coffee pods will go to the landfill this year. That's more than 63 million cups just in Pierce County's system!

If you already own a machine and want to minimize your waste, you can use a reusable and refillable pod. Also see 5 Ways to Green Your K-Cup.
If you can boil water you can do everything a pod-based coffee machine can do. There are many different ways to brew your own coffee and they all generate less waste than a single use cup. And if you compost at home your coffee grounds and filters can go right into your bin. Experiment to find your favorite.

Community Engagement
Curbside garbage, recycling and yard waste providers and services vary throughout Pierce County. You receive information about recycling and garbage service from Pierce County Public Works, but you also hear from your service provider.
How do we ensure the information you receive is consistent and correct no matter where it comes from?
Public Participation
You are our partners in the materials management system. We value your input and are committed to providing opportunities to participate in the development of our programs.
Virtual workshops like this one are a way to reach more of our residents than we would with a traditional public meeting.

Active Participation
There are many residents, businesses and institutions that do not subscribe to curbside recycling and trash collection. Some subscribers sign up for recycling service but put all of their recyclables in the trash.
If we want to achieve our vision of a community that reuses resources and wastes little, we must all actively participate in the materials management system.
Quality Participation
Every day we make choices affecting the materials management system and the world around us.
A working knowledge of where our waste goes, how to divert it and the impacts of our consumer choices is key to making informed decisions about the things we buy (or don’t buy) and what to do with these items after we’ve used them.

Waste Reduction or Waste Diversion?
It's important to understand the difference here. Waste reduction seeks to avoid creating waste in the first place. Waste diversion keeps materials out of the landfill by recycling or reusing them.
waste reduction
Waste Reduction
Waste reduction takes a little more work at first, because you have to plan ahead and think beyond the lowest price or easiest option. It's worth the effort, though. When you make smart purchases you save money and have less trash and recycling.
Examples of Waste Reduction
  • Fill a reusable bottle with tap water
  • Wait a little longer to buy new cell phone
  • Bring your reusable bags to the grocery store
  • Cook at home instead of ordering take out

waste diversion
Waste Diversion
If you recycle you are already practicing waste diversion. What else can you do to reuse or recycle items you no longer want?
Examples of Waste Diversion
  • Donate clothing and other items to charity
  • Compost food scraps in your own worm bin
  • Make a bird feeder out of an empty milk carton
  • Take glass to a drop-off site for recycling

Wasted Money
The average family of four throws out more than $2,000 worth of food in a year. That's like throwing away one of every four bags of groceries you bring home, every time you shop.
U.S Dept. of Agriculture
grocery bag
Wasted Food
Food is wasted everywhere in the developed world, and the United States is no exception.
Why should we care? Wasted food is an economic problem, but it's also an ethical and environmental one.
Wasted Food in Pierce County
Edible food makes up 11% of the total amount of food going to the landfill.
44,000 tons of edible food will be thrown away in Pierce County this year.
Hungry People
48 million Americans were food insecure in 2014. This means they don't know where their next meal is coming from.
empty plate