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Ban Ordinance on Recyclables in Garbage

Expansion of Commercial Recycling Requirements

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.

Draft Director’s Rule SW-402.1 and Opportunity for Public Comment

SPU is revising its Director’s Rule Prohibition of Recyclables in Garbage to incorporate new commercial recycling requirements that are found in Ordinance #124313 and a new implementation schedule. Effective July 1, 2014, commercial businesses are required to recycle paper, cardboard, yardwaste, glass bottles and jars, plastic and paper cups, plastic bottles and jars as well as aluminum and tin cans.

The implementation schedule for these requirements is as follows:

  • January 2014, SPU begins a program of educational outreach to businesses
  • Effective July 1, 2014, the new commercial recycling requirements are in effect
  • The ongoing inspections of commercial garbage containers by SPU include the visual monitoring for paper cardboard and yardwaste and new materials including glass bottles and jars, plastic and paper cups, plastic bottles and jars as well as aluminum and tin cans
  • Educational tags will be left by SPU inspectors if “significant amounts of recyclables” (more than 10% on a volume basis ) are found in a commercial garbage container
  • Effective July 1, 2015, civil penalties will be applied after two warning notices have been mailed to the garbage account customer

Draft Director’s Rule SW-402.1 keeps the same inspection monitoring procedures, civil penalties and exemption conditions as the original 2005 Director’s Rule SPU-DR-01-04 Prohibition of Recyclables in Garbage. It also does not change the recycling requirements for residents or customers who self-haul garbage to the City’s transfer stations (dumps).

Comment period on the draft Director’s Rule ended March 25, 2014.

What Recycling is required according to the Seattle Municipal Code?

Seattle Municipal Code (SMC) 21.36.082 and 21.36.083 details the recycling 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 paper, cardboard, glass and plastic bottles and jars as well as aluminum and tin cans in their garbage containers as of January 1, 2005. Yard debris has been prohibited from residential garbage since 1989.
    Exception:
    • Contaminated and food soiled paper, while not included in the disposal ban, is compostable.
  • Commercial
    Businesses are prohibited from disposing of significant amounts of paper, cardboard and yard debris in the garbage as of January 1, 2005. Businesses are further prohibited from disposing of paper and plastic cups, glass and plastic bottles and jars as well as aluminum and tin cans in their garbage containers as of July 1, 2014.
    Exceptions:
    • Commercial or multifamily customers without adequate space for recycling as determined by SPU inspection.
    • Garbage dumpsters that receive waste from the public.
    • Contaminated and food soiled paper, while not included in the disposal ban, is compostable.
  • Self-Haul Customers at the City’s Transfer Stations
    All self-haul customers are prohibited from disposing of significant amounts of recyclable paper, cardboard and yard debris in the garbage area.

What is considered "significant amounts of recyclables?"

Significant amounts of recyclables 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
    The City’s 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.
  • Apartment Owners or Property Managers
    City inspectors will mail to the garbage account holder up to two warning notices before a $50 surcharge 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.
  • Tranfer Station Customers
    Self-haul customers will be asked to separate out recyclable paper and cardboard 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