Seattle Public Utilities Mami Hara, Director

Food Waste Requirement Frequently Asked Questions

Seattle Municipal Code sections 21.36.082 and 21.36.083 require that residents and businesses do not put food scraps, compostable paper, yard waste, and recyclables in their garbage.

What doesn't go in the garbage?

What do the requirements mean for single-family residences?

Single-family garbage containers should not contain recyclables or food waste. Recyclables and food waste should be put in their respective carts.

What do the requirements mean for multi-family residences?

Apartments and condos must provide convenient food and yard waste service and recycling service for their residents. SPU gives warning notices for multi-family garbage containers that contain recyclables of food waste. For each warning, the property will receive a tag on the container and a notice will be mailed to the account. After 2 warnings, properties may receive a $50 fee on their waste bill for recyclables in the garbage.

What do the requirements mean for commercial businesses?

The ordinances specify that a fee may be applied to a solid waste account when more than 10% of the garbage container (by volume) contains prohibited materials, food waste, food-soiled paper, and/or recyclables. All commercial establishments that generate food waste or compostable paper are required to subscribe to food and yard waste service, compost their food waste on site, or self-haul their food waste to a transfer station for processing.

How do I get help starting food waste collection?

Why does Seattle prohibit food and yard waste from the garbage?

Based on the success of Seattle’s existing recycling and yard waste ordinances, SPU projects that the food waste requirements will divert an additional 38,000 tons of food scraps from the landfill via composting. This will help Seattle achieve its goal of recycling and composting 60 percent of waste.

Before the ordinance, Seattle sent approximately 100,000 tons of food waste 300 miles to a landfill in eastern Oregon each year. This resulted in higher costs and greenhouse gas emissions.

Today, Seattle sends more than 125,000 tons of food and yard waste to composting processors. The material is now turned into compost for local parks and gardens.

When did these requirements begin?

  • In 1988, Seattle prohibited yard waste from the garbage.
  • In 2005, Seattle prohibited recyclables from the garbage.
  • In 2005, Seattle also began curbside food waste collection.
  • In 2009, Seattle required all residential properties to either subscribe to food and yard waste collection or participate in backyard composting.
  • Since late 2011, multi-family buildings in Seattle have been required to provide compost collection service for their residents.
  • In 2015, Seattle prohibited food waste from the garbage.