Seattle shoots for zero waste

  @FortuneMagazine October 31, 2013: 7:10 AM ET
MET18 landfill

Seattle trash heads for the landfill.


Despite our best intentions, America remains a disposable society. In 2011 we generated 250 million tons of garbage, nearly double the amount in 1970. Over the same period the number of dumps in the U.S. dropped from 20,000 to 1,900, and many municipalities privatized trash hauling, leading to higher dumping fees. According to the National Solid Wastes Management Association, the average cost of dumping is about $44 a ton, compared with $8.20 in 1985. Another way to look at it: We waste $7 billion a year on trash.

Some forward-looking cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle are working with the private sector to reduce the negative impact of landfills and to cut costs by aiming for what's called zero waste. It's a stretch target, but getting anywhere near it would be a big improvement over the status quo. The national average for recycling is only 35%.

Join the Conversation

Market indexes are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer LIBOR Warning: Neither BBA Enterprises Limited, nor the BBA LIBOR Contributor Banks, nor Reuters, can be held liable for any irregularity or inaccuracy of BBA LIBOR. Disclaimer. Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer The Dow Jones IndexesSM are proprietary to and distributed by Dow Jones & Company, Inc. and have been licensed for use. All content of the Dow Jones IndexesSM © 2014 is proprietary to Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Chicago Mercantile Association. The market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved. Most stock quote data provided by BATS.