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   Solid Waste Generated

Data Source

Washington State Department of Ecology. Data include municipal (residential and commercial) and industrial waste generated in Pierce County. The drop in 2008 is due to less construction, demolition, industrial and contaminated soils disposed.

Benefits of reducing waste

  • Saving raw materials and energy to extract, transport, process, manufacture and dispose of products. About 65-85% of our waste is potentially recyclable, compostable or reusable.1
  • Saving money: more than 7,000 communities in the US including Tacoma have “pay-as-you-throw” programs where residents pay for the amount of waste they dispose rather than through the tax base or a flat fee.


  • Transportation of waste contributes to traffic, noise, and air pollution, including diesel particulate matter and greenhouse gases.2
  • Burning garbage and construction debris contributes to particulate matter and other air toxics, and is illegal.3
  • Liquids that leach from landfills may contain nitrates, metals, and other toxic substances, depending on what was put in the landfill.
  • Decomposing waste produces methane, a greenhouse gas more potent than carbon dioxide.4 Methane from the LRI landfill in Graham is burned or turned into energy.5


  • Breathing air downwind from waste transportation routes and facilities.
  • Drinking water with contaminants that leach from leaking landfills. Landfills built before 1985 did not have the modern liners and liquid collection systems to prevent groundwater contamination that are now required. As of 2010 there were 32 closed landfills and 62 additional closed in Pierce County.6

Human Health Impacts

  • Breathing or swallowing hazardous materials that get into the air or water can cause dizziness, head aches, cancer, and other illnesses.
  • Fine particulate matter contributes to respiratory illnesses, heart disease, and cancer.

Economic Impacts

  • Collecting and disposing of household garbage costs $254 a ton in unincorporated Pierce County in 2004. Collecting and recovering household recyclables is less expensive, at $229 a ton.7
  • When the main landfill in Graham fills up, waste disposal costs are expected to rise. The landfill is not expected to be filled until after 2030.8

Policy Actions

  • In 1985 landfill regulations became more protective of environmental health.
  • The Pierce County Council approved a single-family curbside recycling program using a single container for recyclables in 2004. Since then recycling has increased from an average of 30 pounds to almost 50 pounds in 2007, per month, per household.9
  • The Pierce County Solid Waste Division is studying and developing recommended policy actions for the best management practices of food wastes generated in Pierce County.

Personal Actions
Food waste makes up about 40% of our waste, up 30% from 1995.

  • Businesses in Tacoma:
    • Find out about the food waste collection pilot program - call (253) 502-2289.
  • Residents:
    • Compost food waste – to find out how call (253) 798-2179 or (253) 573-2426 in Tacoma.
    • Donate good canned, bulk and other foods to your local food bank or the Emergency Food Network – call (253) 584-1040.

Properly dispose of household products.

Reduce Waste

  • Save money: decrease the size of your garbage container and increase the size of your recycle container.
  • Precycle: think before you buy.
  • Reduce, Reuse and Recycle - at home, work and play.
  • Buy products that have less packaging, are reusable (not single-use) and less hazardous.


Pierce County Solid Waste Division: (253) 798-2179,

Pierce County Solid Waste Advisory Committee: (253) 798-2179,

Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department Solid Waste Program: (253) 798-6047,

Washington State Department of Ecology: (360) 407-6654

Beyond Waste Progress Report:

Waste2Resources, data and more:

Northwest Product Stewardship Council: (206) 723-0528,

1 2009 City of Tacoma Municipal Waste Stream Composition Stud; What’s in Your Garbage?, Earth Matters, Winter 2010, Pierce County Public Works and Utilities, Solid Waste Division.
2 Solid Waste Management, LGEAN:
3 A Health Risk Comparison of Landfill Disposal and Waste-to-Energy Treatment of Municipal Solid Wastes in New York City. Moy, 2005:
4 Solid Waste in Washington State, 2007, Washington State Department of Ecology.
5 LRI web page and slide show, Methane Gas, December 14, 2011:
6 Closed Landfill Study Pierce County, Washington, Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department, December 2010.
7 Effective 4th quarter 2011 through March 2012, personal communication from Steve Wamback.
8 LRI Landfill Annual Report for 2010, SCS Engineers, 2011.
9 Single-Cart Curbside Recycling: 2 ½ Years, Pierce County Dept. of Public Works and Utilities, 2008.