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City Council approves plan to require food-waste recycling starting in 2015

Screen Shot 2014-09-22 at 4.10.39 PMThe City Council Monday approved a plan to require food-waste recycling in Seattle starting in 2015 — with fines for noncompliance by next summer.

Council Bill 118195 prohibits food waste and compostable paper from disposal as garbage. The requirements for single family homes, apartments, and businesses will go into effect with the new year with new “collection fees” levied starting in July. Single family homes with recyclable material in their garbage will be dinged $1 per container. Business owners and apartment building managers will find their disposal containers tagged and will be assessed with a $50 collection fee.Screen Shot 2014-09-22 at 4.23.20 PM

Some pre-existing buildings without room for recycling resources and public bins are exempted from the requirements.

In a sample of more than 100 Seattle businesses with food waste collection, the city found that the accumulated garbage was made up of nearly 50% compostable materials.

The move comes as Seattle officials are looking for ways to address the city falling short of its recycling goals and falling well off pace for long-term environmental planning. The plan will be accompanied by an education program to help citizens and businesses better sort their trash.

Not sure about what goes where? Check out SPU’s handy food and yard waste page.

Yes! In Your Food and Yard Waste Cart

Food scraps

  • Fruit and vegetables
  • Bread, pasta, grains
  • Eggshells, nutshells
  • Coffee grounds, filters
  • Tea bags
  • Meat, fish, and chicken
  • Dairy products – milk, butter, cheese
  • Shells and bones

Food-soiled paper

Yard waste

  • Plant material
  • Grass
  • Leaves, branches, twigs – up to 4 inches in diameter and 4 feet in length
  • Plant and tree trimmings
  • House plants – no pots
  • Small amounts of sod – less than 60 pounds
  • Holiday trees – no tinsel, ornaments, flocking; not longer than 6 feet long and 4 inches in diameter
  • Bundles up to 4 feet long and 2 feet in diameter, tied with natural twine

Not! In Your Food and Yard Waste Cart

Garbage can

  • Biodegradable containers unless marked “Approved” by Cedar Grove
  • Styrofoam containers
  • Dirty coated paper cups, plates. Clean ones can be recycled
  • Disposable utensils
  • Grease and fats in lidded container
  • Facial or toilet tissue
  • Diapers
  • Pet waste and litter
  • Household trash/litter
  • Hoses
  • Garden tools
  • Bundles tied with wire, nylon cording or plastic banding
  • Loose soil
  • Rocks/gravel

Recycle cart – all items must be clean

  • Plastic shopping, newspaper, and dry cleaner bags – clean, stuffed together, no produce bags

  • Milk, juice, ice cream cartons – rinsed

  • Cardboard – unwaxed, flattened

  • Plastic bottles, jugs, dairy tubs

  • Glass bottles and jars

  • Metal cans

  • Paper – dry

  • Nursery pots

  • Paper and plastic cups – clean
  • Plastic trays and containers

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6 years ago

I can already see rent increases due to “collection fees” and noncompliance fines.

6 years ago

Few things in life are more vile than a community yard waste bin. I guess I’ll have to invest in rubber gloves and Vick’s Vaporub.

6 years ago
Reply to  JTContinental

Agreed. Prepare for fruit flies everywhere.

DB McWeeberton
DB McWeeberton
6 years ago

My current apartment management is too lazy/incompetent/socially irresponsible to be able to handle this directive. I would assume this is also the case for most crappy apartments on the Hill. If anything, we’ll get bins full of uncollected food waste stinking up the place and attracting rats and raccoons.

This seems like a situation where the good intentions of the city and the venality of slumlords will come into conflict, and it’ll take actual aggressive enforcement and follow-up to make them comply.

6 years ago
Reply to  DB McWeeberton

Why do you think the food waste bins will be “uncollected”? As long as single-family residents put the bins out on the correct day, they are reliably collected…and on a weekly basis. As for apartments, the contracts do not require putting the bins out….CleanScapes services them from wherever they are stored, also weekly….so there is no need for residents/onsite managers/landlords to do anything for this to happen.

6 years ago

if the city wants to increase recycling, they should collect every week. The every other week recycling pickup is BS…I end up throwing out many recyclables in the trash because my recycling bin is otherwise overflowing by the end of the two weeks

6 years ago
Reply to  PBE

You can have more than one recycle can – they are free.

Much of this conversation (in all the media I’ve heard/read) conflates recycling with yard waste. Yard waste is picked up weekly, and it’s yard waste that recycles the food waste.

Non-food waste is recycled in the blue cans every other week.

6 years ago

Currently there is an ordinance that fines residents for mixing recycling in with the garbage. I am not aware of any fines being levied. So who will enforce food waste in garbage? The trash collectors don’t have that kind of time. Will the City hire a cadre of employees to go from building to building digging through garbage bins?

This is a great publicity stunt, but it is also a meaningless gesture.

6 years ago
Reply to  JayH

I agree that enforcement will be problematic. The trash collectors can do no more than take a cursory look at what’s inside the containers, so there really is no way they can make a fair assessment of whether or not the regulations are being broken. Most apartment-dwellers put their trash into plastic bags, and there’s no way the collectors are going to inspect each and every one of those.

The City’s goal is great, but the new regulations are impractical.

6 years ago

well meaning but not well thought out.
it will be more effective to raise taxes and make us so poor that we waste nothing, so nothing to put in garbage can :P


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5 years ago

I am currently leasing a commercial building in Seattle…. One of the tenants ordered a dumpster and has now bailed out of here in the middle of the and the dumpster is still here. Who is ultimately responsible for the bill. The person whose name is on the bill or is it the property owner?