Big Differences in Solid Waste Policies Reflect Red/Blue Divide

When we monitor local government meetings for clients we track which meetings did and which meetings did not contain a solid waste and recycling topic for discussion or action. Then we organize those results into categories to spot trends and analyze patterns.

Something we’ve noticed, and were able to confirm after the Waste Alert 2017 Q2 report, is the national political polarization of views between progressive-leaning (blue) areas and conservative-leaning (red) areas definitely applies to solid waste and recycling issues, as with many other policy issues.

During the second quarter alone, one (very) blue city in California objected to President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord by citing the city’s 70% diversion rate. A city in blue Washington state incorporated the goal of increasing diversion into the City’s Comprehensive Plan, a core document usually reserved for land use planning. Another California city has hired a consultant to develop policies and procedures dedicated to diversion, reduction and recycling and limiting trash collection times.

Also during the second quarter of this year, red areas in our sample, including Idaho, Wyoming and Oklahoma as well as more rural areas in Oregon and Washington, largely avoided diversion-focused efforts, instead focusing on bolstering solid waste service levels. For example, one small Wyoming city explored requiring the franchisee to maintain a local office. It bears noting that the monitored jurisdictions in red states tend to have smaller populations than the large cities monitored in the blue states. As with our national politics, population density, geography and political leanings are all tied together when it comes to solid waste and recycling policies.

Following the Waste Alert 2017 Q1 report, a significant takeaway was the industry headline hot topics of zero waste, organics and food waste, plastic bag bans, and landfill leachate did not lead the charge in terms of monitoring results. Instead, the nuts and bolts of solid waste operations and management were more frequently discussed.

Waste Alert has reviewed 5,365 local government agendas and minutes since we started tracking in 2016. The sample arises from actual monitoring reports for Waste Alert clients, as well as from sample reports.  The cities and counties are located in 16 states (Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, California, Idaho, Nevada, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming) because those were the states Waste Alert’s clients were interested in. The jurisdictions in our sample range from a population of 1,000 to a population of over 1,000,000, providing a unique snapshot of local government activity.

If you’d like to receive a copy of the Waste Alert 2017 Q1 or Q2 report email me or call me direct (541-848-7144) with any questions. You can also sign-up for the Waste Alert newsletter or connect with us on Facebook and LinkedIn to follow articles related to the impact of local government on the solid waste and recycling industry.

Waste Alert is here to help you know not if, but when elected officials are talking about your issues. We customize reports and deliver them straight to your inbox.


Jeff Eager is the founder and CEO of Waste Alert. He is a practicing attorney specializing in solid waste franchise issues for private waste companies, and is the former mayor of Bend, Oregon.