Solid Waste Programs and Policies

workers at the Cascade Recycling Center sort plastic contamination out of paper on conveyor belts

Kirkland's Solid Waste Program manages our curbside waste collection service contract with Waste Management, develops waste-related policies, provides recycling education, and more.

Our recycling team has goals for how much waste Kirkland residents and business produce, and how much of it gets recycled. We work on meeting our community waste goals several ways:

  1. Providing curbside waste collection
  2. Hosting recycling locations and events for things that can't be recycled at home
  3. Helping businesses recycle and compost better
  4. Making it easier for renters to recycle and compost at their apartments
  5. Collaborating to improve the recycling system
  6. Educating people who live here about recycling and how to waste less

Beyond Recycling: Sustainable Materials Management

In the past, most waste goals focused on recycling. Now we know recycling alone doesn't mean we're using our resources wisely.

Sustainable materials management is a new way to think about how we use resources. This approach looks at how we use materials from cradle to grave:

  • What's the environmental impact of extracting raw materials and making them into products?
  • How much energy does it take to ship products where they're needed?
  • How much water and energy can we save by recycling? Are we recycling materials into lower quality products? How many times can we use the same material in products?

By rethinking the way we use materials at all steps of their lifecycle, we can make the best use of them. We can waste less if products are more durable, repairable, and recyclable. The ultimate goal is to waste zero resources.

We're working towards this new approach through:

  1. Waste Reduction
  2. Recycling and Composting
  3. Product Stewardship

Kirkland's Community Waste Goals

recycling-rate-goal-70-percent.jpg Kirkland follows waste goals set by King County. All cities in the region agree to work towards the same waste goals together. The 2019 King County Comprehensive Solid Waste Management Plan outlines all these goals.

  • Goal: Recycle and compost 70% of our waste (also known as "recycling diversion rate"). In 2019, Kirkland's diversion rate was 46%.
  • Goal: Each person throws away 5.1 pounds of garbage a week. In 2021, Kirkland residents threw out 8.2 pounds a week.

The plan also calls for everyone to produce less waste, period. That includes all the garbage, recycling, and compost each person disposes.

Kirkland is meeting some of the goals in the plan, but others will take more effort. These goals have been incorporated into the City's Sustainability Master Plan.

Kirkland's Solid Waste Program Activities

Improving Access to Recycling and Composting

One of the ways we're helping Kirkland residents and businesses recycle more and waste less is by making it easier to recycle and compost.

  • Businesses and apartment buildings must have as much space for recycling as for trash. Garbage and recycling dumpsters should be next to each other. Putting containers side by side makes it less likely for garbage to be put in the recycling. It also makes recycling easier for employees and residents.
  • We put recycling bins throughout downtown Kirkland and in all neighborhood parks.
  • Businesses and apartments can get free food scrap compost service by request. (Apartment request form and business request form.) We have this step so we can provide the tools and training to make sure composting will work well wherever we add it.
  • Anyone who lives in an apartment or condo that doesn't have compost can drop off food scraps at our public carts.

Preventing and Reducing Waste

Learn why it's important to reduce your waste and how you can make less waste and reuse more.

Recently, our team has been working to add water bottle filling stations around Kirkland to make it easier to bring your own reusable water bottle.

City-Level Waste Reduction Policies

Plastic Bag Reduction Policy

Washington State plastic bag rules have now replaced Kirkland's policy from 2016. All businesses will need to charge for bags under the State policy, including those that aren't required to now. Under the State policy, businesses can provide thicker plastic bags (considered reusable) for the same charge as paper bags. The City strongly encourages businesses to provide paper bags, which are easily recyclable, rather than plastic bags, which are harder to recycle and unlikely to be reused enough times to balance out their greater impact. 

Single Use Food Packaging Policy

Staff evaluated possible policies for single use food packaging and Styrofoam takeout containers and presented introductory research to Council in 2019. Washington State has since passed a policy to limit Styrofoam food packaging in 2024. Additionally, a policy took effect in January 2022 that limits food service businesses from providing unwanted utensils, straws, and single-serving condiments. At this time, staff are not evaluating an additional local food service ware policy.

Regional Policy

We support and take part in regional solid waste policy planning efforts.

A Better Way to Handle Washington's Paper and Packaging

In recent years, the recycling system has faced dramatic changes. Paper and packaging are harder to recycle than they used to be - but they make up most curbside recycling. Because these changes threaten the system's viability, we are exploring alternatives statewide. Right now, consumers pay for their own waste. A different system called Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) would have manufacturers pay instead. Recycling and composting are cheaper than throwing things away in the landfill. Manufacturers would be more likely to make their products recyclable or compostable.

The province of British Columbia has successfully switched to an EPR system. The Responsible Recycling Task Force evaluated how EPR could work in Washington State. Here, EPR would be applied to packaging and paper.

Supporting Product Stewardship Programs

Product stewardship is another way to manage waste. Whoever designs, makes, or sells a product takes responsibility for its environmental impact. It's often used for products that contain hazardous materials. Product stewardship gives people places to take products when they're done with them. In Washington, product stewardship applies to fluorescent lights, household electronics, medicine, and paint.

Our team participates on the Steering Committee of the Northwest Product Stewardship Council.