Your Friendly Guide to Compost & Recycling in Seattle

We’re pretty eco-conscious here in the Northwest, but it may surprise you that the average Seattlite still produces 2.5 pounds of garbage per day.  Eco Collective is committed to promoting a culture of low impact living.  People talk about throwing things “away,” but in reality, there is no away.  Our landfills pollute our water and land and use up precious resources, and a horrifying amount of plastic and garbage ends up in the ocean.  The modern world is all about convenience, but at what cost?

We believe that if you refuse single use plastic whenever possible, make a few intentional changes in your routine and shopping habits, and are responsible about recycling and composting when appropriate, we can start to change the norm. 

We are extremely lucky here in Seattle with our curbside composting system and the amount of recyclables that are accepted in the city wide pickups.  But sometimes it can get tricky.  For example, did you know that you can now recycle the plastic caps on bottles, as long as you screw them back onto the empty bottle?  Or that you can compost paper towels?

We’ve put together some friendly tips, as well as linking to a few helpful resources the city or popular publications provide. 

(Disclaimer: some of this language is taken directly from the Seattle Public Utilities website)



Food scraps

Seattle Public Utilities lists the following common food scraps that can go in the compost:

Fruit and vegetables

Bread, pasta, grains

Eggshells, nutshells

Coffee grounds, filters

Tea bags

Meat, fish, and chicken

Dairy products - milk, butter, cheese

Shells and bones

Paper Towels

Paper towels with food or grease on them can be composted or put in the food & yard waste bin!  If they happen to have cleaning supplies or bodily fluids on them, play it safe and throw them in the garbage.

Greasy Pizza Boxes

Yep!  You can compost these.




Plastic bottle caps

Screw plastic caps onto an empty plastic bottle and put in the recycling.

Metal bottle caps and plastic caps not attached to a bottle still go in the garbage.

Cooking oil

You can set up to two 1-gallon containers of used cooking oil out for free on your recycling day.

1. Pour cooled oil into a 1-gallon plastic container with a tight-fitting, screw-on lid.

2. Label the container with your name and address.

3. Set the labeled container on the curb next to your recycling bin on your collection day.

Aluminum Foil:

You can recycle aluminum foil and aluminum food pans after you rinse all food residue off.  But don’t crumple it into a ball first - that’s a common misconception.  If the foil is too dirty or covered with food, it goes in the trash.  Small pieces or the foil from wine bottles has to be thrown away too.

Coffee Cups:

Coffee cups should be rinsed and recycled unless labeled compostable (styrofoam cups must be thrown in the trash).  However, coffee cups are not recyclable in many places because of the waxy coating on the inside… when in doubt, ask!

We’ll be adding a reusable coffee cup to our product line soon.  Reusable is always better!  They keep your drink warmer longer, too.

Bubble Wrap:

Bundle bubble wrap together with recyclable plastic bags (such as newspaper bags, shopping bags, and dry cleaning bags) in a plastic bag.  However, bubble pack envelopes go in the trash.

Fabric and Textiles:

Stained, worn out, ripped, or damaged fabric or textiles can be turned into new products through Threadcycle. Some local thrift and second-hand stores are partners and will accept these items at their regular collection or drop box locations.

Broken Glass:

Broken bottles or jars that are 3” or larger can be recycled.  But if it’s just pieces of broken glass, or pieces smaller than 3”, it has to go in the garbage.

Some more helpful articles:

Seattle Public Utilities provides this helpful guide of what’s accepted in the food & yard waste bin.

Seattle Public Utilities also offers a thorough, searchable index of how to dispose of various household items.

The Seattle Times answers some tough questions about what you can and can’t put in the recycling or compost.