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Seattle tossing park garbage cans

City wants visitors to pack out their trash

SEATTLE – Trash cans are vanishing from parks in Seattle, a trend that city officials are more than happy to see continue.

The parks department has been removing garbage cans since 2001, halting trash pickup entirely at 25 of the city’s more than 400 parks.

The idea is to get park visitors to pack out their dirty diapers, sandwich bags, empty beverage bottles, orange rinds and other trash. The city wants that stuff to go into home garbage cans – or, when appropriate, to be recycled.

Last year alone, the city removed about 350 garbage cans from its parks and “no one even noticed,” parks spokeswoman Dewey Potter said.

But that’s because most were removed gradually from little-used and small neighborhood parks.

This year, in response to the city’s budget crisis, the parks department plans to save about $160,000 by removing 400 more cans in more popular parks. The city is trying to leave cans in picnic areas.

Not everyone thinks it’s a great idea.

In the southeastern corner of Volunteer Park, cans “just vanished overnight,” said Steve Rovig, who lives nearby. After a recent nice weekend, he said a trash can at a nearby bus stop was overflowing.

“When you invite people through picnic tables and nice facilities … I just don’t think you can really expect them to pack out a lot of picnic supplies and dog waste and the like to take home and put in their own garbage cans,” Rovig said.

He complained to the city, and one of the cans has been put back.

In hindsight, Potter said park crews “may have responded a little bit too zealously” by taking out so many cans at one of the city’s most popular parks.

“Obviously, we don’t want trash to be piled up,” she said. “It’s going to be sort of trial and error for a while, I think.”


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