Seattle Public Utilities Mami Hara, General Manager/CEO

FAQs – Ban of Recyclables in Commercial Garbage

What do Seattle businesses need to do to comply with Seattle’s recycling ordinances?

Seattle businesses need to keep recyclables out of the garbage. They must place their recyclable paper, cardboard, cans, bottles and cups in their recycling collection container, and they must place their yard waste in their compostables collection container. If City inspectors find that these recyclables and compostables appear to make up more than 10% of a garbage collection container, they will be found to be non-compliant with the ban.

We get a lot of tourists and customers at my business. Does my business need to sort out cans and bottles from the garbage that our customers put there?

Businesses can avoid non-compliance by placing recycling collection containers next to publicly-available garbage cans. No sorting out of recyclables is required of materials placed in publicly-available garbage cans. Garbage collected from the public areas of business sites is exempt from the inspection and assessment. To reduce the likelihood of recyclables being found in public area garbage cans, position mixed-recycling collection cans next to the garbage cans.

The recycling containers in my cubicle and on the floor of my office building don’t say I can recycle my bottles or cans. How can I get new recycling containers?

You may contact your recycling collection service provider. Commercial recycling services are provided by private companies who may have additional resources to make your recycling efforts more convenient and easy.

My business shares a dumpster with other businesses and multi-family residents. Can I get fined if they put recyclables in the dumpster?

It is possible that a shared dumpster could be found to be non-compliant. The ban of recyclables applies to commercial and residential properties. The account holder would be the party that would be contacted by the City if inspectors find the collection container to be non-compliant.

How will the new recycling ordinance be enforced?

City inspectors perform inspections of collection containers. At businesses where collection containers are found to be non-compliant the City will contact the account holder to address the non-compliant status. Initially, this might include leaving tags and informational flyers on the container, or sending such materials via U.S. Mail or presented in person. Citations for non-compliance may also result from inspections.

What is the timeline for enforcement?

Inspections began in 2005 when the initial ban on paper and cardboard went into effect. Inspections that find a garbage container to be non-compliant as a result of materials included in the revision of the ordinance will result in warnings and educational information for one year following July 2014 when the revised law goes into effect. Inspections that find non-compliance based on 2005 requirements will result in enforcement.

What is the city doing to educate businesses and residents about the new ordinance?

The City provides information via direct mail within our outreach channels, via the website and through local media. Education and outreach is also provided via a business stakeholder meeting and at several outreach events.

Are customers required to recycle their cups at my establishment? What can I do if they put them in my garbage?

Cups are recyclable in the City of Seattle. If cups are found in your waste stream, then place a recycle bin for collection of mixed recyclables next to your garbage can. If customers do not sort recyclables correctly in collection bins in your customer area, then you are not required to sort the recyclables out of the garbage. If an inspector finds your dumpster to be non-compliant, the process will include an assessment to determine whether the items found in the dumpster are from your public area collection bins or from non-public area garbage collection.

Are my employees required to recycle their cups and other beverage containers at our offices?

Yes, the ban on recyclables in the garbage includes cups and beverage containers. Your employees should be aware of what is recyclable and you should make recycling collection containers available to your employees.

Are recyclables prohibited from litter cans on the sidewalk?

Publicly-available collection containers for garbage are not prohibited from accepting recyclables. Placement of additional recycling containers with streetside litter cans is recommended.

How can I get litter and recycling cans on my sidewalk?

Publicly-owned and serviced litter and recycling containers have been placed in areas determined to meet placement criteria. Many public place litter and recycling collection containers are managed by SPU staff. Other agencies that offer public place collection include Seattle Parks Department, King County Metro, Port of Seattle, and Sound Transit. Privately-owned and serviced litter and recycling collection containers are available via many janitorial supply distributors.