Recycling and Composting Benefits

Environmental Benefits

Graphic of recycleables becoming new items

Recyclables

  • Manufacturers use raw materials to create products.
  • The raw materials can be recycled feedstock or obtained from the Earth.
  • The environmental footprint related to climate change, public health, and harm to ecosystems is considerably lower when recycled feedstocks are used.
Graphic of food scraps becoming new items

Food Scraps

  • Food scraps and yard waste that are put into the compost container are processed in regional facilities.
  • There, they are converted into nutrient rich soil that is used to grow plants and vegetables.
  • In contrast, when these materials are placed in the garbage, they are taken 300 miles from Seattle to an Oregon landfill.
  • In the landfill, the materials decompose and produce methane, a greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming1.
  • There are other additional benefits to composting.

 

Economic Benefits

  • Recyclable and compostable items are resources that have a market value. All Seattle customers benefit from the sale of those materials because the income generated keeps solid waste bills lower than they would otherwise be. When these materials are sent to the landfill, that value is wasted.
  • The costs of landfilling and transporting materials 300 miles from Seattle are higher than the costs associated with transporting, processing, and handling materials that go to a composting or recycling facility.
  • The monthly bill that homeowners and landlords pay to SPU may be reduced if all the recyclables and food scraps are kept out of the garbage. SPU sets collection rates to incentivize recycling and composting, where garbage collection is the most expensive commodity, compost collection is provided at an affordable rate, and recycle collection is provided for free.

 


1 It is estimated that at least 85% of the methane generated from Seattle's garbage landfilled in Oregon does not escape into the atmosphere. Most is captured and burned to generate electricity (Oregon Department of Environmental Quality Operating Permit Review Report).