By UW Sustainability | Mar 3, 2016

We're lucky in Seattle to have city-wide composting, which makes it easy to keep food scraps out of the landfill. Choosing compost instead of the landfill bin reduces methane emissions and allows for the material to be re-used to increase soil nutrients. However, the city still sends about 100,000 tons of waste to the landfill each year which could be composted.

You can even compost items in the city compost bins that wouldn't be able to go in a backyard compost pile. Meat, bones and compostable cups break down in commercial composting facilities, which create well-regulated, high-temperature conditions which are difficult to replicate at home. On campus, almost all packaging and cups from vendors such as Bay Laurel and Starbucks are compostable!

If you're not sure what can be composted, check the UW Recycling visual guide or the City of Seattle's website. You can also contact UW Recycling for more information.

Here's a general list:

  • Food scraps
    • 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
  • Food-soiled paper
    • Paper towels, napkins - kitchen only
    • Paper plates - uncoated only
    • Food-soiled newspaper
    • Greasy pizza boxes
    • Shredded paper
    • Paper bags (uncoated) with food scraps
    • Compostable bags
    • Approved compostable tableware (pdf)
  • Yard waste
    • Plant material
    • Grass
    • Leaves, branches, twigs - up to 4 inches in diameter and 4 feet in length
    • Plant and tree trimmings
    • House plants - no pots
    • Small amounts of sod - less than 60 pounds
    • Holiday trees - no tinsel, ornaments, flocking; not longer than 6 feet long and 4 inches in diameter
    • Bundles up to 4 feet long and 2 feet in diameter, tied with natural twine

If you'd like to get the benefit of nutrient-rich compost to use in your garden and yard, you can also compost in your own backyard. Check out the city's guide to get started.

The UW Sustainability mascot, Sqwatch, has a love of the environment so deep his heart is green (and he's clearly got a passion for purple and gold). As a sasquatch, Sqwatch is well versed in leaving no trace and making sure his impact on the environment is minimal. Even a bigfoot can have a small environmental footprint, and Sqwatch is here to help spread the knowledge to the UW community. We'll be letting you in on some of Sqwatch's Secrets regularly, providing easy tips to reduce your impact and leave a lighter footprint.
See a list of all of Sqwatch's Secrets here.