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Ordinances Prohibiting Recyclables in Garbage

City of Seattle Ordinance #121372 effective January 1, 2005 and Ordinance #124313 effective July 1, 2014 prohibit the disposal of certain recyclables from residential, commercial and self-haul garbage. Ordinance #124582 effective January 1, 2015 prohibit the disposal of food waste and compostable paper from residential, commercial and self-haul garbage.

What is required according to the Seattle Municipal Code?

Seattle Municipal Code (SMC) 21.36.082 and 21.36.083 details the recycling and composting required by all residents, commercial businesses and customers who haul their own waste to the City’s transfer stations (dumps):

  • Residential
    Both single-family and multi-family residential residents are prohibited from putting significant amounts of recyclable paper, cardboard, glass and plastic bottles and jars, aluminum and tin cans, as well as compostable food soiled paper towels, paper napkins, pizza boxes, and food waste in their garbage containers. Yard debris has been prohibited from residential garbage since 1989.
  • Commercial
    Businesses are prohibited from disposing of significant amounts of recyclable paper, cardboard, glass and plastic bottles and jars, aluminum and tin cans, paper and plastic cups, as well as compostable food soiled paper towels, paper napkins, pizza boxes, and food waste in their garbage containers. Businesses are further prohibited from disposing of yard debris in the garbage as of January 1, 2005.
    Exceptions:
    • Commercial or multifamily customers without adequate space for collection containers as determined by SPU inspection.
    • Garbage dumpsters that receive waste from the public.
  • Self-Haul Customers at the City’s Transfer Stations
    All self-haul customers are prohibited from disposing of significant amounts of yard debris, recyclable paper, cardboard, glass and plastic bottles and jars, aluminum and tin cans, paper and plastic cups. Effective July 1, 2015 compostable food soiled pizza boxes, paper napkins, paper towels, and food waste is prohibited in the garbage area.

What is considered "significant amounts of material?"

Significant amounts of material is defined under Draft Director’s Rule SW-401.2 as "more than 10% by volume of container, dumpster or self-haul vehicle's load based on visual inspection by a Seattle Public Utilities inspector, contractor or transfer station worker."

How does the City enforce these bans?

  • Single-Family Residents
    Effective January 1, 2015 the City’s collection contractors will leave a notice (pdf) on the can informing the customer that significant amounts of recyclables and compostables in the garbage is prohibited. The notice will state that beginning January 1, 2016 a $1 fine will be added to their garbage bill if significant amounts of recyclables and compostables are found in their garbage.
  • Apartment Owners or Property Managers
    Effective January 1, 2015, the city's solid waste inspectors will mail to the garbage account holder up to two warning notices (pdf) for significant amounts of compostables and recyclables found in the garbage. Beginning January 1, 2016 the two warning notices will be followed by a $50 fine added to the apartment building’s garbage bill.
  • Business Owners or Property Managers
    Effective January 1, 2015 the City’s solid waste inspectors will mail to the garbage account holder up to two warning notices (pdf) for significant amounts of compostables and recyclables found in the garbage. Beginning January 1, 2016 the two warning notices will be followed by a $50 fine added to the account holder’s garbage bill.
  • Transfer Station Customers
    Self-haul customers will be asked to separate out recyclables and compostables as well as yard debris from their loads and not to dispose of such material in the garbage area.

What resources are available to help residents and businesses comply?

  • All single-family households have a free, curbside recycling service.
  • Apartments are also eligible for the City’s free recycling service.
  • The City’s Transfer Stations accept recyclables for free and yard debris for a fee that is less than garbage.
  • Businesses can contact SPU to obtain information on other private commercial recycling services where the pickup service is more frequent and revenue might be received for large quantities of recyclables, such as office paper.

Related link

Director’s Rule SW-402.1 (pdf)
What's Accepted - Top Recycling Questions