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Recycling in Seattle grows for 13th consecutive year

In 2016 the city recycled 439,672 tons. But there’s still room for growth

For the thirteenth consecutive year, Seattle’s recycling rate continued to grow — to almost 60 percent — and the city held its place as one of the top recycling municipalities in the nation.

According to a new report by Seattle Public Utilities (SPU), in 2016 the city recycled 58.8 percent, or 439,672 tons, of the waste generated by residents and businesses — growing by about one percentage point over the previous year.

“Thank you, Seattle for being persistent environmental stewards and premier environmental leaders,” Mayor Ed Murray said. “Our commitment to recycling and sustainable living shows the rest of the country what’s possible when it comes to taking responsibility for the planet.”

Diverting organic material (including food waste and food-contaminated paper) from the landfill, so that it can be composted, is still the best way to increase the city’s recycling rate.

“If you simply dump food into a landfill, it gets buried forever,” the mayor said. “But if it’s composted, those nutrients are recycled back into the soil, which is the best route to sustainability.”

“Thirty percent of our garbage is still food, and composting food waste is where we can make our biggest recycling gains,” SPU Solid Waste Director Ken Snipes said. “In fewer than six months food waste goes from being something people throw away to rich compost they are buying to make their gardens grow.”

Although every jurisdiction measures its recycling and waste diversion results differently, the cities of Portland, San Francisco, and Seattle are widely considered to have some of the most advanced recycling and waste diversion programs in the U.S.

Snipes said Seattle’s recycling rate has increased more than 20 percent in the past 13 years—from 38.2 percent in 2003 to almost 60 percent in 2016. He added that, as the city reaches toward its ambitious goal of 70 percent recycling by the year 2022, every additional percentage point becomes increasingly difficult.

“It will take both innovation and continued work to reach the 2022 recycling goal of 70 percent,” Snipes said.

“Products and their recyclability are changing, Seattle’s demographics are changing, recycling markets are changing — and the definition of recycling success is changing. Seattle needs to adapt to these changes to reach its goal and ensure a positive environmental impact.”

Snipes noted that SPU’s outreach programs to the multifamily and commercial sectors are one of the ways the utility is working to boost city’s recycling rate.

Find out how to best recycle, compost, or dispose of your waste at:

Click here for information about our transfer stations, including the new recycling and reuse facility at SPU’s North Transfer Station.

For information on where to dispose of household hazardous waste, including station locations and hours, go to or contact (206) 296-4692.