How to Sort at Home

Where does it go? Know what goes in recycling, compost, and garbage. Follow these tips and you'll be sorting like a pro in no time. Learn how to set out extra garbage, yard waste, and recycling.

To search for any specific item, go to the Where Does it go? tool using the shortcut Or download sorting guidelines for recycle, compost, and garbage (8.5" x 14" PDF)

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Recycling instructions, duplicated in text on page


  1. All recycling must be empty, clean, and dry to be ready for recycling. No foods or liquids, because they ruin other recyclables.
    • Give your items a quick rinse to get food residue out. Let them dry.
    • For food containers, empty all food out, rinse and let dry.
  2. Focus on these five categories:
    • Paper: newspaper, magazines, paperboard cereal boxes, and office paper
    • Cardboard: flatten cardboard so it takes up less room. Labels and tape are okay
    • Plastic containers, bottles, jug and tubs: milk jugs, plastic soap bottles, yogurt and sauce tubs
    • Metal cans and scrap: aluminum cans, steel cans and clean foil trays
    • Glass bottles and jars: no drink glasses or window glass
  3. Items need to be bigger than 3 inches. Things that are smaller can fall through the sorting equipment at the recycling sorting facility, so they are not able to be sorted for recycling. Small stuff goes in the garbage.


Composting instructions, duplicated in text on page


  1. All food scraps and waste: if at one point you could have eaten it, it's compostable
  2. Food soiled and shredded paper: pizza boxes, napkins, paper towels, greasy food wrappers, and dirty plain paper plates
  3. Compostable bags
  4. Approved compostable food packaging: it must say "Compostable" on it
  5. Yard waste, plants and clean wood: branches, leaves, and unpainted wood

No plastic, metal or glass. No plastic or shiny coating on paper plates and food packaging.


Garbage instructions, duplicated in text on page


  1. Plastics bags, wraps & wrappers: frozen food bags, candy wrappers, produce sticker, dirty food containers and plastic bags
  2. Bubble envelopes & mailers
  3. Foam: trays, instant food container, and foam blocks
  4. Diapers & pet waste
  5. Hygiene products & protective equipment
  6. Other garbage: broken dishes, hoses, dryer lint, loose bottle caps, kitchen grease

Do not put electronics, hazardous, and medical waste in the garbage.


Misc. instructions, duplicated in text on page

Additional items

Items that don't go in the containers and need special handling

Special item collections

  1. Furniture & Appliances
  2. Electronics
  3. Batteries & Fluorescent Light Bulbs
  4. Medicine & Syringes or Sharps
  5. Small Propane Canisters (camp stove style), and visit the Cooking Oil page for more information
  6. And More!

Household hazardous waste

  • Cleaners & Chemicals
  • Gasoline & Fuel
  • And More!


Cannot find what you searched for? Email to learn how to properly dispose of your item.

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.