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Sustainable Material Management Plan

Sustainable Materials Management 

Since 2000, Tacoma has more than doubled the tons of material diverted from the landfill, currently diverting about 205,600 tons (55%) through recycling and composting. However, that still leaves 165,000 tons of material that still gets sent to the landfill.


Tacoma Generates About 378,000 Tons of Material Every Year

All of that material needs to be collected and managed in some way. The best solution is to decrease the amount of waste we are generating. The next best thing is to divert waste from the landfill.


Tacoma Sets Goal to Divert Solid Waste from Landfills 

In 2008, the City of Tacoma set a goal to divert 70 percent of Tacoma’s solid waste from landfills by 2028. In May 2014, the Tacoma City Council passed Resolution 38907 which reaffirmed the City’s commitment to the 70 percent diversion goal. It also called for the development of a Sustainable Materials Management Plan (SMMP) to ensure that the goal is met on schedule. Sustainable materials management is an approach that includes waste prevention and management, while seeking to reduce environmental impacts by managing materials through all stages of their life. The creation of the SMMP started with commissioning a second waste characterization study. The study examined the current waste stream and recycling levels, projected future diversion, and analyzed options and strategies to achieve the 70 percent diversion goal.


Plan to Achieve 70%

A four phase plan was recommended for the next 12 years with an emphasis on “voluntary first” strategies. Using a phased approach makes this process easier to plan and lowers costs. The recommendation in the SMMP is to fully implement the first two phases and prepare for a thorough evaluation of progress in 2022. Here is the timeline for all four phases with each phase explained below:


Image of SMMP Timeline


Phase 1 (2017-2020)

The objective of Phase 1 will be to increase recycling and waste prevention voluntarily. There will be minimal new investment and regulations during this phase. This phase builds on existing successful outreach and education initiatives and calls for 19 new types of programs. The first phase also takes advantage of the excellent collection programs and infrastructure the City of Tacoma already has and is meant to build the groundwork for designing and implementing Phase II and Phase III diversion programs. Alone, Phase 1 would increase recovery to almost 62 percent by 2028.

Phase 2 (2021-2022)

The second phase emphasizes new regulations and changes to operational practices. A significant change will be the investment in increased processing capacity for mixed organics recovery. The investment in additional organics processing will provide the capacity to process 30,000 tons of yard and food waste. The new Phase 2 changes, incentives, and programs are estimated to divert an additional 31,800 tons by 2028. This would increase the overall recycling rate from 62 percent to 68 percent.

Phase 3 (2023 and beyond)

In Phase 3, the City of Tacoma will face a choice of two strategies for how to proceed. Phase 3 can either focus on more regulations and required recycling or investing in a new Materials Recovery Facility (MRF). A MRF is a specialized plant that receives, separates and prepares recyclable materials. Both phases would meet the goal of 70 percent diversion rate by 2028.


Phase 3 Option:                        No MRF   MRF
 Impose recycling regulations and mandates on residents and businesses  Invest in Materials Recovery Facility to better process recyclables
 Cost  $150,000 per year

$33 million (one time cost)

$5 million per year

 Result  12,200 tons diverted; 71% diversion

$5 million annual revenue

30,000 tons diverted;

75% diversion

Phase 4 (2028 and beyond)

Even though all options for Phase 3 would bring Tacoma to the goal of 70 percent diversion, the SMMP looks even further. The City of Tacoma considers 70 percent diversion as a step towards a truly sustainable system. Tacoma strives to limit its environmental impact and looks toward a waste-free future.

The two options for Phase 4 depend on the decision to construct a Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) in the third phase. Phase 4 could reach 72 percent diversion with additional mandates, regulations, and programs or 76 percent diversion with the MRF.


Downloadable Materials

Download the full report including the Executive Summary, The Plan (Volume One), the Waste Characterization Study (Volume 2), and the Material Recovery Facility Feasibility Report (Volume 3).


To download these documents as individual files, use the links below:

Executive Summary
Volume One: The Plan
Volume Two: Waste Characterization Study
Volume Three: Material Recovery Facility Feasibility Report

Contact Us

Office of Environmental Policy & Sustainability

(253) 591-5172



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SMMP Full Report

Executive Summary
Volume 1: The Plan
Volume 2: Waste Characterization Study
Volume 3: MRF Report