The City of Bellingham and Sanitary Service Company (SSC) will request Bellingham City Council consider a resolution authorizing changes to Bellingham’s residential recycling and waste collection services during the Council meeting on Monday, February 27. The changes are proposed to improve recycling collection efficiency, align with legislative action at the State level, and make progress on the goals in Bellingham’s Climate Action Plan.
The proposed changes include replacing the current three-bin, curb-sorted recycling system with a single receptacle for all materials – a system called single-stream, or commingled, recycling- as well as adding organics – food and yard waste – collection for all residential customers.
“Times are changing and there’s a need to re-evaluate our solid waste collection system,” said City of Bellingham Public Works Director Eric Johnston. “We believe single stream recycling and organic waste collection will be able to best balance economic impact, environmental impact, and recycling responsibility.”
The City has contracted with SSC to provide residential garbage collection for decades. SSC and other waste collection service providers used to be able to sell recyclables for a small profit to help offset the costs of collection. However, demand for recyclables has dropped which has made it significantly more expensive to process recycling.
“Recycling collection programs can no longer rely on commodity markets to fund or reduce collection costs,” said SSC General Manager Ted Carlson. “SSC seeks to instead reduce operational costs through efficiency measures to reduce the need to pass extra costs on to customers. Improving efficiency would improve cost predictability and help mitigate the need for rate hikes.”
In addition to improving recycling, adding organic waste collection to residential service diverts waste that is currently sent to the landfill and converts it into a nutrient-rich soil amendment. Johnston said an estimated 30 percent of Bellingham’s residential waste is organic material that can be composted. Adding organic waste collection is also in alignment with House Bill 1799, a bill passed in 2022 that requires local governments in Washington State to have an organic waste program in place by 2027.
To learn more about these proposed changes, please visit the Residential Recycling and Waste Collection Frequently Ask Questions page and tune in to the February 27 Council meeting at meetings.cob.org.