Cash for Less Trash

Trash guru Chris Martin once proposed using cameras to catch people illicitly disposing of recyclables in the regular garbage. But now that the CleanScapes chief is a big-time garbage hauler, serving almost half the city through the contract it started last spring, he's taking a more customer-friendly approach to getting people to go green with their trash. Specifically, he's bribing them. Seattle Public Utilities announced this week that Georgetown-based CleanScapes will award $50,000 to the neighborhood that most reduces its collective garbage—including recyclables and compost—by early spring. Martin says he's trying to get past the idea that all we need to do is recycle as much as possible. Given all the energy that goes into driving around and picking up recyclables (and compost), he says, "it'd be better if that stuff wasn't [thrown out] in the first place." The winning neighborhood will get to use the money for a capital project of its choice, such as a pocket park. Eligible neighborhoods (i.e., those serviced by CleanScapes) are Magnolia, Queen Anne, Madison Park, Madrona, and Leschi. To aid its customers, CleanScapes is offering garbage-reducing tips, some more appealing than others. Number one on Martin's list is cutting down on junk mail. "Instead of three L.L. Bean catalogues, maybe you only need one," he says. Assuming L.L. Bean cooperates, who could argue with that? On the other hand, Martin himself doesn't warm to CleanScapes' tip of the week, listed on its Web site: "Buy a [Christmas] tree that can be planted or mulched afterward, or buy an artificial one and use it again next year." While he extols the virtue of buying a small evergreen with its root ball intact and finding a spot in the garden for it after Christmas, he says his 5-year-old "insisted" that they go together into the forest and chop down their own tree. (And OK, he likes hiking or skiing into the mountains every year to get one.) As for the artificial variety, he says, "On a personal level, I just have a hard time using a plastic tree." Magnolia, Leschi, are you listening? If you want to win the trash-off, you might need to swallow your pride and haul in the plastic trees. Then maybe you can plant some real trees with all the money you'll get.

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