Palo Alto is poised to try out a "radical" refuse collection program that could save money and keep more garbage out of landfills.

The test, which was approved 8-0 by the city council Monday night, will see a mix of 700 single- and multi-family households give up their black garbage carts for a year starting in April.

Participants will instead use their remaining blue and green carts to dispose of all their household refuse. Only now their green carts will be used for yard trimmings and food scraps and their blue carts for recyclables and items that cannot be recycled or composted.

Food scraps, along with items that cannot be recycled or composted, will be bagged for easy sorting at waste facilities.

"It's a little bit radical," Phil Bobel, interim assistant public works director, told the city council. "We'd be the first city that we're aware of to try this concept although it's been talked about in other locations."

The city expects to save on collection costs by eliminating the black carts. The program also promises environmental benefits, because food scraps will be composted alongside yard trimmings instead of being sent to landfills. Palo Altans currently throw out an estimated 6,000 tons of food scraps every year.

The program was spurred in part by the city council's Finance Committee, which asked city staff last year to investigate whether cost savings could be achieved through less frequent refuse collection.

The committee did not make a formal recommendation on the program to the city council but underscored the need for simplicity, Chairwoman Nancy Shepherd said.

"We felt that it was important for us to keep this simple," Shepherd said, "where you minimize human behavior by telling everybody to put exactly these things into the green bin and everything else in the blue bin."

In the coming months, city staff will meet with the yet-to-be-identified participants and explain how the program works.

Ron Arp, the city's manager of environmental control programs, said the program will be evaluated based on cost savings, convenience for residents, diversion rates, quality of compost and greenhouse gas reductions. The latter is expected to materialize through fewer garbage truck trips. If deemed a success, the program could spread to the rest of the city.

Council Member Liz Kniss was not present for the vote on the program Monday.

Email Jason Green at jgreen@dailynewsgroup.com; follow him at twitter.com/jgreendailynews.