Food Waste Requirements

Photo of vegetables in compost

Compostable and recyclable materials are not allowed in the garbage. It's the law. They can be used for other purposes instead of being sent to the landfill. Compostables are locally made into compost and put back into the soil. Recyclables are made into new materials without needing to extract raw materials from the earth.

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 Not to Put in the Garbage

  • All food and food-soiled paper products such as paper towels, paper napkins, and cardboard must be composted.
  • Recyclable items such as paper, uncontaminated cardboard, bottles, cups, jars, and cans must be recycled.
  • Unsure? Look it up using the Where Does it Go? Tool.


What Does This Mean for Me?

Single-family residences

Garbage carts should not contain recyclables or food waste. Recyclables and food waste should be put in their respective carts.

Multi-family residences

Apartments and condos must provide convenient food & yard waste service and recycling service for their residents. Seattle Public Utilities gives warning notices for multi-family garbage containers that contain recyclables and food waste. For each warning, the property will receive a tag on the container and a notice will be mailed to the account. After two warnings, properties may receive a $50 fee on their waste bill for recyclables in the garbage. Property owners and managers can print or request free educational flyers that are available in multiple languages.

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.

See below to download flyers about food waste requirements for businesses.

Business Recycling and Composting Requirements

All documents are in PDF format.


History of Seattle Composting

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.

  • In 1988, Seattle prohibited yard waste from the garbage; it was enacted the following year
  • 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 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


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.