2022 Solid Waste Plan Update: Moving Upstream to Zero Waste

On April 11, 2023, the City Council adopted the City’s latest comprehensive solid waste management plan, Seattle’s 2022 Solid Waste Plan Update: Moving Upstream to Zero Waste (2022 Plan Update). The Washington State Department of Ecology approved the 2022 Plan Update on June 7, 2023.

An international leader in solid waste management for decades, Seattle has advanced a zero-waste vision thanks to public support for environmentally progressive programs and thoughtful planning. To move upstream toward zero waste, SPU is looking at the whole life cycle of materials to eliminate waste and toxins, prevent pollution, reduce carbon emissions, and conserve natural resources as early as possible. We get closer to zero waste by producing and using less. That is why Seattle’s 2022 Plan Update prioritizes waste prevention in solid waste system planning. As part of our emphasis on waste prevention, Seattle will work to address the root causes of waste to reduce impacts on health and the environment. 

 Infographic showing key steps in the lifecycle of consumed materials and pointing out where greenhouse gas emissions are produced
View a larger version of this graphic.

Don’t have time to read the whole plan? Take a look at this brief document summarizing each chapter and the recommendations in it.



2022 Plan Contents

Chapter 1: Development of the 2022 Solid Waste Plan Update (PDF)

  • Overview
  • Solid Waste Management in Seattle
  • Plan Organization
  • Planning Background
  • Plan Development
  • Recommendation Development

Chapter 2: Maximizing and Measuring Impact: Moving Upstream, Beyond the Recycling Rate (PDF)

  • Overview
  • A Data-Driven Approach to Planning
  • Evolving Recycling Rate Goals for Commercial, Residential, and Self-Haul Waste
  • Construction and Demolition Debris Recycling Rate Goals
  • 2011 Plan Revision Rate Goals
  • Disposal Reduction Goals
  • Advantages and Limitations of the Recycling Rate
  • Measuring Upstream Goals
  • Measuring the Impact of Activities and Services

Chapter 3: Solid Waste Data and Trends (PDF)

  • Overview
  • Types and Sources of Waste
  • Measuring and Modeling Seattle’s Waste
  • Demographic, Economic, and Environmental Factors in Planning
  • Commercial, Residential, and Self-Haul Waste Generation Trends and Forecasts
  • Commercial, Residential, and Self-Haul Waste Recycling and Composting Trends and Forecasts
  • Capture Rate Estimates for Commercial, Residential, and Self-Haul Waste
  • Waste Composition Study Results
  • Construction and Demolition Debris Trends and Forecasts

Chapter 4: Waste Prevention and Reuse (PDF)

  • Overview
  • Prioritizing Waste Prevention
  • Food Waste Prevention and Food Rescue
  • Product-Related Waste Prevention (Excluding EPR)
  • Waste-Free Communities Matching Grant
  • Natural Yard Care
  • Green Purchasing
  • Reuse and Repair

Chapter 5: Recycling and Composting Policy and Markets (PDF)

  • Overview
  • What’s Recyclable
  • Recycling Markets
  • Developing Local Recycling Markets
  • Partnering for Change
  • Voluntary Product Stewardship
  • Extended Producer Responsibility
  • Laying the Groundwork for Statewide Packaging EPT and a Container Deposit System
  • Composting

 Chapter 6: Solid Waste Handling, Collection, and Removal (PDF)

  • Overview
  • Collection at Home and Work
  • Litter and Illegal Dumping Mitigation in the Public Right-of-Way
  • Hazardous Waste Drop-off

Chapter 7: Solid Waste Transfer, Processing, Disposal, and Emergency Management (PDF)

  • Overview
  • North and South Transfer Stations
  • Recycling and Compost Processing
  • Long-Haul and Disposal of Garbage
  • Managing Historic Landfills
  • Emergency Management

Chapter 8: Construction and Demolition Debris (PDF)

  • Overview
  • C&D Debris Requirements Encourage Reuse and Recycling
  • C&D Collection, Reuse, Recycling, and Disposal

Chapter 9: Education, Outreach, Enforcement, and Compliance Support (PDF)

  • Overview
  • Outreach and Education
  • Customer Communications
  • Customer Programs
  • Code Enforcement and Collection Contract Compliance Support

Chapter 10: Administration and Financing of the Solid Waste System (PDF)

  • Overview
  • Organizational Structure
  • Financial Policies
  • Financial Health
  • Funding Sources
  • Projected Monetary Needs and Financing Strategy

Key concept videos

Learn about the plan’s key concepts in 90 seconds or less! Click on thumbnail to view on YouTube. 

2022 Solid Waste Plan Update Overview

As an international leader in recycling and waste management, Seattle Public Utilities is moving the vision of zero waste forward with our 2022 Solid Waste Plan Update! But what exactly does it mean to move upstream to Zero Waste? How is this approach different and what can you do to help us reach our goals for a more sustainable and waste free future? Start by learning more in this video series on key concepts of the plan including 1) Preventing Food Waste, 2) Legislation & Policy, 3) Reuse & Salvage, and 4) Climate & Waste.

Preventing Food Waste

Did you know that preventing food waste or composting can lead to a 50% decrease in methane gas emissions generated by putting food in landfills? In Seattle, approximately 20% of household garbage is food waste that could have been prevented or composted. You can make a big difference for our planet and your wallet by preventing food waste, it is one of the most important actions we can take to get to zero waste. Check out these tips for preventing food waste and thank you for composting and preventing food waste!

Legislation & Policy

Do you ever get overwhelmed with all the product packaging that ends up in our homes? At Seattle Public Utilities, we have a bold vision of a Zero Waste Seattle! That means considering the whole life cycle of materials so we can prevent waste from the start and building a more inclusive circular economy with less waste through reuse and responsible recycling. One way we’re moving toward this goal is by supporting a bill establishing a producer responsibility program for packaging during the 2024 WA Legislative Session.

Reuse & Salvage

One way that Seattle Public Utilities is moving upstream to zero waste is by embracing reuse! Through Reuse Seattle, SPU has helped businesses reduce over a million single-used cups. In partnership with the Northwest Building Salvage Networks, we’re focusing on salvage and deconstruction to reuse items like doors, cabinets, windows, flooring, and more for home projects and remodels. Find out how Seattle is embarking on a journey towards a future without waste with this video.

Climate & Waste

45% of greenhouse emissions contributing to climate change come from the production and consumption of goods and food according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. To wrap up our video series, here’s some tips on how you can help:  1) Prevent Waste: Reduce, reuse, repair, and share, 2) Recycle Right: Keep garbage and compost out of the recycling bin. 3) Compost Right: Put food scraps and waste in your food and yard waste cart. Keep plastic and pet waste out. Thanks for helping the climate and Seattle’s zero waste goals!

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.