Solid Waste Research Papers

The following archive of reports represents research that guides Seattle Public Utilities' (SPU) solid waste planning and services.

Equity in Reusable Serviceware Systems in Seattle - 2022 (pdf)

This report prepared for Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) by a team of four graduate MPA consultants from the Evans School of Public Policy and Governance at the University of Washington. A report to explore how reusable service ware systems can be provided to businesses and the public in an equitable and inclusive manner, what the challenges are and provides recommendations.

Food Rescue Bin Pilot: Standardization, Reuse, and Communication - 2022 (pdf)

SPU piloted recommendations from the 2021 Grocery Rescue Assessment with three Safeway stores and three Seattle food banks. Findings showed that by using a standardized donation bin, guiding employees on donation protocols, and strengthening communications with their food bank partners, the quality and quantity of donated food goes up while food waste goes down. The pilot also prototyped a bin reuse system to pick up, clean, and return the bins to the stores. More testing is needed to understand the costs and benefits of embedding this kind of reuse into the food rescue system. 

Check Out Reuse: The next step for Seattle to reduce single-use packaging - 2021 (pdf)

This report prepared for Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) by a team of four graduate MPA consultants from the Evans School of Public Policy and Governance at the University of Washington. A report to explore how Food Service Businesses can transition to reusable food packaging to support the City's zero waste goals. Reuse systems provide reusable to-go cups and food packaging to food service business (FSB) customers, both eliminating single-use packaging
waste and reducing the overall environmental impacts of food packaging.

Grocery Rescue Assessment - 2021 (pdf)

SPU engaged with Northwest Food Alliance (NWFA) to assess grocery rescue operations at eight Seattle grocery store locations. Grocers are among the largest donors of surplus food. This project focused on how grocers could improve quality and quantity of donated food while reducing food and packaging waste. NWFA conducted extensive interviews, measured donated food and packaging across a ten-day period, observed donation protocols, and led discussions on how to improve outcomes for stores and the organizations who collect their donations. Download the summary or the full report.

Improving Food Rescue in Seattle: What can be learned from a supply chain view? - 2020 (pdf)

This report prepared for Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) by the University of Washington Supply Chain Transportation & Logistics Center. Interviews with Seattle food banks, meal programs and food businesses identified key gaps to address for food rescue transportation efficiencies.

Assessing Seattle's Progress Toward Reducing Single-Use Plastic Straw and Utensil Consumption - 2019 (pdf)

In 2007, the Seattle City Council adopted Zero Waste Resolution 30990 and directed Seattle Public Utilities to develop strategies to discourage disposable food service containers and food serviceware through a framework of waste reduction ordinances. On July 1, 2018, Seattle Public Utilities required food service businesses to use durable or compostable straws and utensils such as spoons, forks, and knives. The focus during the first year of this ordinance has been on education and outreach to businesses about the new requirement. Seattle Public Utilities is interested in assessing compliance and perceptions of the ordinance at Seattle food service businesses.

Reducing Plastic Pollution through Progressive Policies - 2018 (pdf)

This report prepared for Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) by a team of four graduate MPA consultants from the Evans School of Public Policy and Governance at the University of Washington. Contains findings, analyses, and recommendations based on surveys administered to 105 Seattle businesses, focusing on compliance rates and perceptions of Seattle's single-use plastic waste reduction policies. This information is supplemented with a comprehensive review of relevant literature.

On-Site Food Waste Processing Demonstration Projects - 2017 (pdf)

This report summarizes three on-site food waste processing demonstration projects conducted with local businesses. The two different processing technologies used were found to be feasible at grocery stores and breweries.

Goals, Metrics, and More: Defining Success in Materials Management (pdf)

Overview of Seattle Public Utilities’ New Metrics Symposium - Goals, Metrics, and More: Defining Success in Materials Management Symposium, held November 2, 2017 at the University of Washington, Center for Urban Horticulture. This Summary Report highlights the Symposium's key discussion themes, among local and regional stakeholders from across the materials management lifecycle. It explored new options for defining success in materials management, that go beyond a weight based recycling rate. The report includes key takeaways, and new information on how we can better define recycling success, by expanding on the weight based recycling rate, to include new metrics that better identify the full environmental benefits recycling has to offer.

Food Waste Prevention & Recovery Assessment – 2016 (pdf)

This report provides a current summary of challenges and opportunities in commercial food waste prevention and recovery in Seattle. Findings are based on 26 in-depth interviews conducted with anti-hunger agencies, food-generating businesses and public agencies.

Proposed Green Fee - 2008

This paper contains the background data on the 2008 Seattle City Council proposal to put a 20-cent per bag "Green Fee" on all paper and plastic disposable shopping bags provided by grocery, drug and convenience stores. The proposal was defeated by voters.

Recycling & Waste Reduction Study - Zero Waste Study - 2007

This study, completed in 2007, evaluated both new strategies and existing programs adopted previously under the guiding principle of "zero waste" as originally laid out in the 1998 Seattle Solid Waste Comprehensive Plan, "On the Path to Sustainability." Zero Waste and collection strategies with the potential to divert significant tonnage away from landfill disposal were identified in this five month comprehensive study.


Food Waste Collection Pilot - 2000 (pdf)

The 2000 pilot project was designed to test if food waste could be added to Seattle’s existing biweekly yard waste collection program. Food waste was added to Seattle's yard waste collection program in 2009.

The Role of Full Cost Accounting in Solid Waste Management - 1999 (pdf)

This 1999 paper details Seattle's journey from crisis to an international reputation as a leader in municipal recycling.

Using Spreadsheet Models for Estimating Collection Costs - 1999 (pdf)

This paper describes two spreadsheet models developed by Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) to estimate collection costs. The models consider variations in collection frequency, truck types, material separation requirements, transfer points, and more for single-family, multi-family and commercial customers.

Measuring Backyard Composting - 1998 (pdf)

This presentation was delivered at the WSRA conference in 1998 and focuses on how we measure tonnage diverted by backyard composting.


Public Utilities

Andrew Lee, General Manager and CEO
Address: 700 5th Avenue, Suite 4900, Seattle, WA, 98104
Mailing Address: PO Box 34018, Seattle, WA, 98124-5177
Phone: (206) 684-3000

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Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) is comprised of three major direct-service providing utilities: the Water Utility, the Drainage and Wastewater Utility, and the Solid Waste Utility.