City of Seattle Kicks Off Clean City Initiative to Address Illegal Dumping and Excess Litter Across Our City and in Parks

SEATTLE (December 11, 2020) – Mayor Jenny A. Durkan’s Clean City Initiative is ramping up, investing more than $3 million in new funding to surge new and existing programs to clean up litter, remove graffiti, and address a backlog of deferred grounds maintenance  across the city. Data from Seattle Public Utilities’ Illegal Dumping program shows a 195% increase in the volume of material collected from Quarter 2 to Quarter 3 of 2020.  

“The pandemic has left the City with significant challenges in our ability to address litter, illegal dumping, and trash throughout our parks, neighborhoods and business districts,” said Mayor Durkan. “As we look toward recovery, it is critical that our public spaces are clean, safe, and accessible to all.”  

 Increases in litter and illegal dumping at parks and public spaces, coupled with reduced City staffing, and the cancellation of volunteer efforts for residents due to COVID-19 has created significant challenges for the City in keeping parks and the public right of way clean. Clean City efforts include: 

  • Additional SPU Community Litter RoutesSeattle Public Utilities (SPU) will add 10 new litter routes to the existing 8 Community Litter routes to more than double efforts to collect litter and illegally dumped trash throughout the city. Each 50 blockface route is serviced twice a week.  
  • Park & Neighborhood Focus Events In addition to regular maintenance, Seattle Parks and Recreation (SPR), SPU, and Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) will focus weekly on extensively cleaning specific parks, neighborhoods, and surrounding streets through street cleaning, pressure washing, grounds maintenance, stairway cleaning, , graffiti cleaning, and trash, debris and needle collection 
  • Increased trash pickup from encampments and RVs—In service of people living unhoused, SPR, SDOT and SPU will collect trash from encampments across the city through an expanded the Purple Bag program and through on-site garbage collection.  
  • Additional needle collection efforts SPU will add 10 new needle boxes throughout the city, and the efforts above will all include needle collection from streets and park spaces.  

Additionally, the Clean City Initiative will invest $350,000 in support of litter and graffiti abatement within  business districts located in neighborhoods at high risk of displacement. The Office of Economic Development (OED), with support from SPU, will work closely with business districts to identify and implement clean services where needed. OED plans to partner with Uplift Northwest, a nonprofit agency that supports employment programs and job opportunities for community members formerly or currently experiencing homelessness, to provide these clean services. 

“Every person living in Seattle deserves clean public spaces,” Councilmember Andrew J. Lewis said. “This surge in cleanup efforts will make our parks more accessible to park visitors and neighbors alike. Considering the challenges our city is facing, expanding our trash pick-up services in parks and along streets just make sense.” 

During the budget process, Mayor Durkan announced actions the City can take within the current budget and some actions that would require additional appropriation from City Council to invest in a surge of cleaning efforts at our parks and public spaces over the next eight months. City Council approved this funding as part of the 2021 budget process.  

“Our park system is a vital part of daily life and that has never been more apparent than during the pandemic as thousands have taken advantage of the incredible green spaces throughout our city,” said Councilmember Juarez, Chair of the Public Assets and Native Communities Committee. “The popularity of our parks requires a greater investment in their maintenance and care, so our parks, from Golden Gardens to the pocket park on your block, can be safe and accessible.” 

“Let’s face it– Seattle has seen litter and illegal dumping grow with the pandemic challenges and we all want it cleaned up,” said Councilmember Alex Pedersen (District 4).  “Data from Seattle Public Utilities shows a whopping 195% increase in material collected when comparing the 2nd and 3rd quarters of this year. I learned more about it up close when I joined an SPU crew to pick up trash in the heart of our district. So, I strongly support Mayor Durkan and her team launching the Clean Cities Initiative– a smart, cross-departmental, comprehensive cleaning plan. We cherish our parks and I’m glad to see this Clean Cities Initiative boosts graffiti removal along with purple bag trash collection and needle disposal boxes. Let’s make our Emerald City shine in 2021!” 

When State COVID-19 restrictions allow, community volunteer programs will resume. Through Seattle Parks and Recreation, community members can sign up for work parties with volunteer-led Friends of Park groups. Through Seattle Public Utilities, community can sign up to join or start Adopt-A-Street efforts in their neighborhood. At this time, these programs are on hold as our state is addressing increased COVID-19 rates.  

Clean City efforts have been ramping up throughout November and December and been funded to continue through March 2021. Each week, the City will share a snapshot of the work that has been accomplished.  

In addition to ongoing maintenance, here’s a look at last week’s work: 

  • 2 Park and Neighborhoods Focuses (Daejeon and Denny parks) 
  • 78 encampments and RVs serviced with trash pick-up  
  • 274 needles collected during cleaning efforts 
  • 18 litter routes this week (8 existing+ 10 new Clean City routes) 
  • 3 needle boxes added (Cal Anderson, Ballard Commons, Denny Park) 
  • 51,575 pounds trash collected (data represents SPU programs only as efforts ramp up) 

To follow along with these efforts visit seattle.gov/clean-city.  

To report illegal dumping, graffiti, or maintenance needs please use the Find It, Fix It app.