Recycling Rate Climbs

Businesses reach highest ever rate at 61.4 %; single households continue above 70%

Seattle has done it again. For the eighth straight year, the city’s residents and businesses have recycled more than the year before. In 2011, Seattle’s overall recycling rate reached an all-time high of 55.4 percent, bringing Seattle closer to its goal of diverting 60 percent of generated municipal solid waste from the landfill through recycling and composting.

“This new record is a testament to Seattle residents’ commitment to recycling,” said Mayor Mike McGinn. “In 2011 our city went above and beyond the recycling goals set by City Council in 2007, hitting record high recycling rates and maintaining Seattle’s status as one of the most environmentally friendly cities in the nation.”

Seattle’s 2011 recycling rate represents a 1.7 percentage point increase from the previous year. The city also achieved a 4.8 percent reduction of landfilled waste from 2010, quadrupling the city’s goal of a 1 percent reduction per year.

Businesses made particularly significant gains in 2011. The commercial sector recycled and composted 61.4 percent of its generated waste. Not only is that the highest recycling rate the commercial sector has seen yet, but it’s also approaching the commercial sector’s goal of 63 percent. The tonnage of commercially landfilled waste also dropped by 6,644 tons, or 16.2 percent.

“One of the most important steps that Seattle residents and businesses can take to help bring the city closer to achieving its recycling goals is to separate food waste and compostable paper for composting,” said Timothy Croll, Community Services Director at Seattle Public Utilities.

“Despite composting more than 125,000 tons of organic material, compostable food and food-soiled paper make up more than 30 percent of the waste that Seattle sends to the landfill.”

Of Seattle’s four municipal solid waste sectors, both single-family households and the commercial sector saw significant strides and set new records. A few of the Seattle Public Utilities programs that facilitated this success included:

  • Awarding $100,000 in grants to neighborhoods and businesses through Waste Management and CleanScapes’ Neighborhood Recycling Rewards programs.
  • Launching mandatory multi-family food waste service to more than 6,100 apartment buildings and condominiums.
  • Establishing a phone book directory delivery opt-out system, allowing 55,000 residents and businesses to opt-out of more than 390,000 phone books, saving 350 tons of paper.
  • Expanding commercial food waste collection.
  • Distributing more than 10,000 kitchen compost containers, 100,000 compostable bags, and 3,000 reusable bags to Seattle residents through promotions and events.

The City of Seattle continues to develop innovative recycling and waste prevention programs. Starting July 1, all single-use plastic grocery bags will be banned from being distributed at retail stores. Also on July 1, Seattle will launch the One Less Truck Project, a six-month study of 800 single-family households on the economic and environmental effects of every-other-week garbage collection.

Later this summer, Seattle will open the new South Transfer Station, which will create improved recycling, composting and waste reduction opportunities for the commercial and self-haul sectors.