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CityLink Seattle

Why do we send our garbage to Oregon?

landfillThroughout our city’s history, Seattle has struggled to properly manage its waste.

Garbage was burned or dumped in local ravines and Puget Sound. Dumps littered the Interbay, Montlake, Genesee, Haller Lake and South Park neighborhoods.

In the 1980s, regional landfills filled up and were placed on the EPA’s Superfund cleanup list, causing the cost to dump trash locally to skyrocket.

Facing this crisis, Seattle secured a long term, cost-effective disposal contract with an environmentally-safe, privately-owned landfill in the desert town of Arlington, Oregon — 300 miles away by train. Seattle then launched a major effort to reduce Seattle’s waste. Twenty-five years ago, Seattle became one of the first major cities in the country to have a curbside recycling program and quickly became a national leader in its effort to reduce, reuse and recycle.

Today, Seattle recycles or composts 56.2 percent of all the waste it generates. However, we still send more than 300,000 tons of trash to Oregon every year — half of which could be recycled or composted. Why waste a good thing?