Seattle Enforces Law Forbidding Food In Trash Cans


Recology CleanScapes driver Rodney Watkins issues a red tag — the scarlet letter of food waste in Seattle. – NPR

Seattle will be ticketing and fining anyone who puts food in their trash. That includes napkins, paper towels, cardboard, or any paper with food on it.

Seattle Public Utilities, Food Waste Requirements

Waste contractors are going through people’s trash and if they find food, they place a big red ticket on the can.

“Right now, I’m tagging probably every fifth can,” Watkins [a lead driver for Recology CleanScapes, a waste contractor for Seattle] says. … “You can see all the oranges and coffee grounds,” he says, raising one lid.

If residents don’t have anywhere to put the food waste, Seattle will give them a can and, for a fee, collect it weekly.

Q. Won’t food waste collection make a mess and attract pests?
A. Food waste is collected at least once a week from commercial and residential properties, thus minimizing vector issues.

2 thoughts on “Seattle Enforces Law Forbidding Food In Trash Cans

  1. Bix Post author

    This is actually an old fashioned idea. We had a garbage can growing up. I can’t imagine the man who collected the sludge in those cans was adequately compensated.


  2. Autumn Hoverter

    Hi Bix,

    Well, I don’t know if I agree with the ticketing or disagree but as a local Seattlite I thought I’d share some fun facts. We’ve had a food and yard waste program in Seattle since 2009. It costs $5.25 per month for weekly pick-up of a 13 gallon container, $7.75 for a 32 gallon container and $9.90 for a 96 gallon container. All yard and food waste can go into these containers, including meat and eggshells, and it’s then sent for hot composting. For residential garbage cans, you have the option of five different sizes, including a 12 gallon micro can. You can recycle all you want for free. So, if you have a small family, recycle, use reusable packaging and compost, the least you can pay for garbage service in Seattle for a residential home is $24.60 a month. I’d be curious to know how this compares to other major US cities.

    As for the tickets for not composting, it’s $1 if food waste comprises more than 10% of the garbage in your can. To be honest, I have yet to see one of these tickets in my neighborhood but then again, we did win the city-wide recycling challenge last year 🙂



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