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Ban Ordinances on Recyclables in Garbage

Food Waste Requirements

  • Effective January 1, 2015, the City of Seattle will no longer allow food and compostable paper, including food-soiled pizza boxes, paper napkins and paper towels, in the garbage.

Expansion of Commercial Recycling Requirements

  • Director’s Rule SW-402.1 (pdf)
  • Effective July 1, 2014, businesses are required to recycle paper, cardboard, cans, bottles and cups.

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 pizza boxes, paper napkins, paper towels 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 pizza boxes, paper napkins, paper towels 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 recyclable paper, cardboard, glass and plastic bottles and jars, aluminum and tin cans, paper and plastic cups, as well as compostable food soiled pizza boxes, paper napkins, paper towels, food waste and yard debris 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
    Until December 31, 2014 the City’s collection contractors will not pick up garbage cans that have significant amounts of recyclables. A notice (pdf)  will be left on the can instructing the customer to separate out the recyclables and place the container out at the curb for collection the following week.
    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 July 1, 2015 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
    City inspectors will mail to the garbage account holder up to two warning notices before a $50 fine is added to the apartment building’s garbage bill.
  • Business Owners or Property Managers
    City inspectors will mail to the garbage account holder up to two warning notices (pdf) before a $50 fine is imposed.
  • 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 trimmings 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

What's Accepted - Top Recycling Questions