LETTER | Yard waste charge of $5.07 per bag explained

Waste-Management-Garbage-Truck-4th-of-July-2011-Kirkland-4320 The following letter is from John MacGillivray of the city's Public Works Departments to a reader of Kirkland Views. In it, John gives some background on the city council decision to end a yard waste subsidy and have Waste Management charge households $5.07 per extra yard waste bag. - Ed.


The solid waste rates adoption process at the end of 2012 was a challenge for everyone and one of the measures recommended by staff and adopted by the City Council to control costs to our rates payers was to end the $150,000 subsidy for extra units of yard waste paid to Waste Management for the 2013/2014 biennium.  There were several factors considered:


  • Potential impacts on our overall recycling diversion rate (we’re very proud of being #1 in King County every year!)
  • Potential increases in illegal dumping activity
  • Industry standard (Kirkland was the last city in King County not charging for yard waste extras)
  • Adequacy of the amount of embedded yard waste service provided at no additional cost


Staff has been closely monitoring the effects of this policy change and so far in 2013 we’ve seen a 52% drop in the number of extra units; a 9% drop in the amount of organic material collected at the curb; and no change in the amount of garbage tonnage collected.  Generally speaking, this data indicates that our residents are aware of the new charges; are better utilizing the space in their yard waste carts (packing it in); but are not throwing their yard waste in the trash.  We have also not experienced any increase in illegal dumping activity and the impact on our diversion rate has been nominal (about 1.5 percentage points lower than 2012).


That all said, we do recognize that this change has been impactful to our residents and I can assure you that this policy will be thoroughly evaluated, discussed, and reconsidered during the 2015/2016 solid waste rates adoption process beginning in the spring of 2014 as you suggest.  In the meantime, you may wish to consider:


  • Kirkland’s Adopt-a-Drain Program – Volunteers receive a free durable, poly-woven leaf bag in return for helping us remove leaves from the street and drains near their homes.  Participants may put out the bag at no charge.  We’ve got about 70 residents participating in this program and you’re welcome to join!  Please contact Betsy Adams, Surface Water Education and Outreach Specialist at (425) 587-3858 or badams@kirklandwa.gov for more information.


  • Ordering an Additional Yard Waste Cart – During the spring growing and fall leafy seasons, you can order an additional 96-gallon yard waste cart picked up once a week for a monthly fee of $12.92.  When the season is over, you can call Waste Management at 1-800-592-9995 to have it picked up.  This is significantly cheaper than paying $5.07 per 32-gallon extra unit.


  • Backyard Composting – While not for everyone, the City offered a free backyard composting class in September to help residents manage their leaves and create rich compost for their gardens.  Participants attending received a free backyard composting container.  We will be holding another class in the spring of 2014 so please keep your eye out for more information.


I’d welcome the opportunity to speak to you or any of your neighbors further if there are any questions.  Thanks again for taking the time to contact us!


Best regards,


John MacGillivray

Solid Waste Programs Lead

City of Kirkland  |  Public Works