Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

AGLO 1978 No. 7 -
Attorney General Slade Gorton


(1) In view of the amendment to chapter 128, Laws of 1972, 1st Ex. Sess. (Referendum 26) which is contained in chapter 242, Laws of 1972, 1st Ex. Sess., the proceeds of bonds issued pursuant thereto may not be made available to counties or other public bodies for the acquisition of trucks or other vehicles to be used in the transporting of garbage from its source in residential, commercial and industrial areas either to drop-box or transfer stations or directly to landfills and recovery facilities.

(2) The foregoing bond proceeds may, however, continue to be used for the acquisition of land and equipment for use in relation to the operation of sanitary landfills, resource recovery facilities, drop-box and transfer stations, and equipment for the transfer of solid waste from such stations to landfills and recovery facilities.

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                                                                  March 13, 1978

Honorable Wilbur G. Hallauer
Department of Ecology
St. Martin's College
Olympia, Washington 98504                                                                                                                 Cite as:  AGLO 1978 No. 7

Dear Sir:

            By letter previously acknowledged you have requested the opinion of this office regarding the use of funds derived from the sale of bonds authorized by chapter 128, Laws of 1972, 1st Ex.Sess. (Referendum 26), as amended by chapter 242, Laws of 1977, 1st Ex.Sess.  Specifically, you have asked whether those bond proceeds may be made available to counties or other public bodies for the acquisition of:

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] (1) Trucks or other vehicles to be used in the transporting of garbage from its source in residential, commercial and industrial areas either to drop-box or transfer stations or directly to landfills and recovery facilities; and

            (2) Land and equipment for use in relation to the operation of sanitary landfills, resource recovery facilities, drop box and transfer stations, and equipment for the transfer of solid waste from such stations to landfills and recovery facilities?

            We answer question (1) in the negative and question (2) in the affirmative.


            Your questions concern the funding of certain waste disposal facilities with monies derived from the sale of state general obligation bonds authorized by chapter 128, Laws of 1972, 1st Ex. Sess. (Referendum 26), as amended by chapter 242, Laws of 1977, 1st Ex. Sess., the totality of which is now codified as chapter 43.83A RCW.1/   That particular bond referendum measure, which was one of several submitted to the voters in 1972 under the heading "Washington Futures," authorized the state finance committee to issue bonds,

            "For the purpose of providing funds for the planning, acquisition, construction, and improvement of public waste disposal facilities. . . ."2/

             Public waste disposal facilities were then originally defined in RCW 43.83A.050 to be:

            ". . .any facilities owned or operated by a public bodyfor the collection, storage, treatment, and disposal of liquid wastes  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] or solid wastes, including, but not limited to, sanitary sewage, storm water, residential, industrial, and commercial wastes, and any combination thereof, and all equipment, utilities, structures, real property, and interests in and improvements on real property, necessary for or incidental to such purpose."  (Emphasis supplied)

            The term "public body," in turn, was defined in this same section of the law to mean:

            ". . . the state of Washington or any agency, political subdivision, taxing district, or municipal corporation thereof, and those Indian tribes now or hereafter recognized as such by the federal government for participation in the federal land and water conservation program and which may constitutionally receive grants or loans from the state of Washington."

            In 1977, however, by its passage of chapter 242, supra, the legislature provided, inter alia, that for the purposes of this funding law,

            ". . . 'public waste disposal facilities' shall not include the acquisition of equipment used to collect, carry, and transport garbage. . . ."3/

             In order to place the basic issue raised by this 1977 amendment (and by your questions) in sharper focus let us turn, next, to a general explanation of existing practices which you have prepared at our request.  In connection with your questions you have informed us that:

            "For many years past the most common procedure for disposing of garbage from residential and commercial sources was to deliver it to a small, inadequately operated disposal site commonly referred to as a 'dump.'  Such sites, normally operated by a city or county, were scattered  [[Orig. Op. Page 4]] throughout the countryside.  Garbage was delivered to these disposal sites either in garbage trucks (operated usually by a private corporation but in some instances by a governmental body) or in other mobile equipment; e.g., automobiles or small trucks and trailers operated by other generators of waste such as home residents.

            "Then, however, in 1969 the legislature enacted chapter 70.95 RCW ‑ the Solid Waste Management Act of 1969.  RCW 70.95.020 states:

            "The purpose of this chapter is to establish a comprehensive state‑wide program for solid waste handling, and solid waste recovery and/or recycling which will prevent land, air, and water pollution and conserve the natural, economic, and energy resources of this state. . . .

            "Thereafter, through a combined administrative effort of the Department of Ecology and local governmental units, a program has been implemented under this 1969 Act which emphasizes the use of large, centralized, highly sophisticated disposal sites known in modern terminology as 'sanitary landfills.'  See chapter 173-301 WAC.  A significant related feature in the program has been the elimination of the many small, inadequately operated 'dumps' located throughout the countryside.  Chapter 173-301 WAC.  For both of these purposes and, in addition, for the purpose of insuring efficiency and convenience in the transfer of garbage from sources of origin to landfills, the state's program has emphasized the development and use of extensions (or arms) of a central sanitary landfill, known as 'transfer stations' and 'drop box stations,' in replacement of the dumps previously used.4/   These 'stations' constitute  [[Orig. Op. Page 5]] entry points to the comprehensive sanitary landfill disposal operation with the ultimate disposal destination being a sanitary landfill."

            On the basis of this explanation the underlying issue presented by your request may now be more readily understood; i.e., does the 1977 amendment to Referendum 26 encompass only (in the words of your first question) the acquisition of trucks or other vehicles to be used in transporting garbage from its source in residential, commercial and industrial areas either to drop-box or transfer stations or directly to landfills and recovery facilities.  Or does it also include the acquisition of land and equipment for use in relation to the operation of sanitary landfills, resource recovery facilities and drop-box and transfer stations, and equipment for the transfer of solid waste from such stations to landfills and recovery facilities?

            It is our opinion that the amendment encompasses only the former and not the latter.  The first reason for this conclusion will be found in the legislative history of the 1977 enactment.  Clearly, the initial and primary purpose of chapter 242, supra (House Bill 195), was simply to remove the January 1, 1980, cutoff date for all of the "Washington Futures" bonds.5/   Only when the bill reached the Senate was it amended to include the above‑quoted exclusionary language ‑ and only after the House then concurred in the Senate amendment did it become law.  During this process, however (and specifically, when the bill was returned to the House of Representatives for concurrence in the Senate amendment), there occurred the following significant debate on the floor between Representatives A. N. "Bud" Shinpoch and Scott Blair:

             [[Orig. Op. Page 6]] "Mr. Shinpoch:  The Senate amendment merely indicates that the referendum bond for waste disposalcannot be used to buy garbage trucks.  I don't think it was ever our intention that it be used in that fashion, therefore, I think the clarifying language merely states what we intended at the time we did the referendum.  I would not think it would be out of line to approve that amendment.

            "Mr. Blair:  Normally when an amendment comes over from the Senate with any reference to garbage trucks I'm really quite suspicious about them, but in this particular case I would have to agree with Representative Shinpoch, I can't see that their amendment does anything except state the obvious that we had never intended this money to be used for the purpose of procuring garbage trucks.  It's quite innocuous and if they want to put it on we should let them do so."6/   (Emphasis supplied)

            The importance of this debate,7/ in terms of your present questions, is in its interpretation of the phrase ". . . equipment used to collect, carry and transport garbage . . ." as simply meaning those vehicles commonly known as garbage trucks.  It was presumably with this interpretation of the Senate amendment in mind that the House concurred and the bill (as amended) became law.

            We next note that the 1977 amendment relates only to "garbage" and not to all "solid waste."  See WAC 173-301-110(33).  What the legislature actually meant by "garbage" is unclear, for the word is not defined in chapter 242,supra.  Nor is garbage defined elsewhere in chapter 43.83A RCW or in chapter 81.77 RCW (dealing with regulation of garbage and refuse collection companies).

            Absent a statutory definition, words used in a statute are to be given their common and ordinary meaning.  Garrison v. State Nursing Bd., 87 Wn.2d 195, 550 P.2d 7 (1976).  "Garbage" has been defined both broadly as "refuse of any kind" and narrowly as "refuse resulting from the preparation, cooking,  [[Orig. Op. Page 7]] and dispensing of food," Webster's Third New International Dictionary, 935 (1971).  It is recognized, however, that the word "garbage" now usually ". . . indicates animal or vegetation refuse from the processes of shipping, preparing, and serving food. . . ."  Id., 1910 (under the definition of "refuse.")8/   Moreover, this latter definition of "garbage" also generally comports with that promulgated by the Department of Ecology in the implementation of the state's solid waste management program pursuant to chapter 70.95 RCW,supra.  In WAC 173-301-110(10), the department defined "garbage" to mean:

            ". . . all putrescible material including animal and vegetable wastes resulting from the handling, preparation, cooking and consumption of foods; swill and carcasses of dead animals, except sewage, sewage sludge, and human body wastes."9/

             This administrative interpretation of the term "garbage" is entitled to great weight, considering the department's general role as the state agency chiefly responsible for environmental protection and its role as primary administrator of the state's solid and liquid waste regulation and control programs.  See generally, chapters 70.95 and 90.48 RCW and Weyerhaeuser v. Dep't of Ecology, 86 Wn.2d 310, 315-317, 545 P.2d 5 (1976).

            Further, we observe the context in which the word "garbage" is used.  The amendatory language of chapter 242 contemplates thecollection of those wastes commonly and normally disposed of at their place of origin (whether that be at residential, commercial or industrial locations) and the transfer of those wastes by trucks to a final disposal system.  This context is the one with which most urban and many rural residents are familiar and this activity is significantly different from  [[Orig. Op. Page 8]] the transfer of wastes and refuse at publicly designated or operated garbage discharge points (such as transfer stations and drop-box sites) which serve as extensions of a comprehensive landfill disposal operation within a general public disposal system.

            Thirdly, it is of significance that the language "collect, carry and transport" is conjunctive rather than distinctive.  Therefore, to fall within the funding barrier of the 1977 amendment the particular facility must be "used" in the collection, as well as in the carriage and transportation, of garbage (as above defined).  On the other hand, a disjunctive reading of the amendment would prohibit the Department of Ecology from funding any equipment that either collects, carries, or transports garbage.  Such an expansively prohibitive reading of the phrase would so radically alter the scope of chapter 43.83A as to bar the use of Referendum 26 funds in the financing of any equipment that moves garbage in any way and at any location.10/   But where statutory language is susceptible of two constructions, one of which is consistent with the object of the statute and the other of which is destructive of it, the former is preferred.  Roza Irrigation Dist. v. State, 80 Wn.2d 633, 497 P.2d 166 (1972).

            Finally, we think it once again important to note your explanation regarding the actual use to which certain garbage moving equipment other than garbage trucks (namely, transfer trailers and detachable containers) is put in a modern, public comprehensive solid waste collection, disposal and recovery system.  Transfer trailers and detachable containers are not primarily involved in thecollection of solid waste ‑ but when attached to tractors for the movement of solid waste from one site to another they are involved in thetransportation of that waste.  Yet, as is implicit in the earlier quoted comments of Representatives Shinpoch and Blair,supra, during debate on the Senate amendment to the bill, the amendment was not perceived as changing the basic purpose of Referendum 26 which was to provide for the funding of facilities and equipment for planning and for the related collection, treatment  [[Orig. Op. Page 9]] and disposal of solid and liquid wastes.  Instead, the only equipment covered by the amendment was those trucks and other vehicles commonly used both by public agencies and by competing private haulers as well in the initial collection and transportation of garbage.

            For all of the foregoing reasons we answer your first question, as above stated, in the negative and your second in the affirmative.  In our view, chapter 43.83A RCW, as amended, now bars Referendum 26 funds from being expended to assistpublic authorities in acquiring "garbage trucks" for use in providing garbage collection and transfer services to the general public on regular residential and commercial routes, a service now provided to a considerable extent by private carriers.  However, those funds may still be expended to finance the acquisition of land and equipment foruse in relation to the operation of sanitary landfills, resource recovery facilities, and drop-box and transfer stations, as well as for equipment, including transfer trailers and detachable containers foruse in the transfer of wastes from such stations to landfills and resource recovery facilities.

            We trust the foregoing will be of assistance to you.

Very truly yours,


Senior Assistant Attorney General

Assistant Attorney General

                                                         ***   FOOTNOTES   ***

1/The state agency given the authority to administer the proceeds of the bonds authorized for sale by Referendum 26 was the Department of Ecology.  RCW 43.83A.040.

2/RCW 43.83A.020.

3/Sec. 1, chapter 242, supra, amending RCW 43.83A.020.

4/A "transfer station," you have informed us, is a fixed, supplemental, collection/transportation/disposal facility, used by persons and route collection vehicles to deposit solid wastes into a larger transfer vehicle for transport to the disposal site.  This does not include a detachable container used for consolidation of the solid wastes from individuals in rural or small town populations.  WAC 173-301-101(36).  See also, RCW 36.58.030.  "Drop Box Stations" are those facilities normally restricted from use by public and/or commercial collection route vehicles ("garbage trucks"), and used only by individual waste generators. For various terms used in solid waste management, see generally, Department of Ecology, Definitions of Environmental Terms (1972).

5/See chapter 43.83B RCW (water supply facilities), chapter 43.83C RCW (recreation areas and facilities), and chapter 43.83D RCW (health and social service facilities), all of which originally required that the bonds involved be issued prior to that date.  See also chapter 28B.56 RCW, pertaining to community college facilities.

6/House of Representatives, Transcript of Proceedings, June 6, 1977.

7/Which, under established principles of statutory construction, is entitled to considerable weight; e.g.,Snow's Mobile Homes, Inc. v. Morgan, 80 Wn.2d 283, 494 P.2d 216 (1972).

8/See also Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary (1957) which defines "garbage," at page 341, to mean ". . . refuse animal or vegetable matter as from a kitchen or a store. . . ."

9/"Putrescible" material in turn is material ". . . capable of being putrefied, liable to become putrid. . . ."  Webster's New Third International Dictionary, 1850 (1971).  "Putrid" material is organic matter in an advanced state of decomposition.  Id.

10/This would exclude from funding such equipment and materials as dump sites and any sort of containers that "collect" garbage (apparently even including paper sacks), any vehicle, portable container, or implement that can be said to "carry" garbage (including, for example, shovels), and any equipment used to "transport" or otherwise move garbage from one place to another (including all trucks and earth-moving or other bulk-moving equipment.)