Food + Yard Waste Guidelines
You can compost food scraps and yard trimmings in your gray cart. Weekly compost service is included with your trash service. Businesses and multi-family properties that meet our qualifications can request a food scrap cart at no additional cost. Apartment and condo residents can also drop off food scraps at our community food scrap drop-off carts.
Composting food scraps is an easy way to reduce your household's climate impact and put your food waste to good use.
What can I put in my gray cart?
All compostable items should go in your gray food+yard cart. You can compost:
- Food scraps (including meat, bones, shells and dairy)
- Food-soiled paper like pizza boxes and paper napkins
- Yard trimmings
- Compostable bags (Cedar Grove approved)
See our compost brochure(PDF, 828KB) for photos. Request a hard copy by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Help Make Good Compost
Only materials that were once alive can be composted -- things that were once plants or animals. When items go into the gray cart that don't break down in compost, that means they wind up as large chunks in the finished compost. Some pieces can be sifted out, but most are too small for the screens. That's why you sometimes see fruit stickers, plastic pieces, and bits of glass in compost. Please only compost items on our accepted list to keep compost clean.
- NO plastic bags in your gray bin! If you want to bag your food scraps, use compostable bags like BioBags or paper bags. See accepted bags.
- Absolutely NO pet waste or diapers. Throw away feces in the garbage.
- Uncoated paper products can be composted, while coated paper products should be thrown away. Coffee cups like you get at Starbucks are not compostable (if empty and clean they may be recycled without the lid).
- Simply because an item is labeled compostable does not guarantee it is accepted in our system - please refer to Cedar Grove for accepted items. There are many different systems for composting materials, and not all materials can break down properly in every system. Additionally, many compostable products accepted at businesses are not accepted in your curbside cart because too many people get confused by product labels and compost items that are not able to be composted.
- "Biodegradable" and "natural" are not the same as compostable.
- Take your yard waste cart to the curb for pickup every week, not just when it’s full. The material inside will start to degrade and be less valuable for composting if you leave it for a long time before putting it out for collection.
What happens to my food and yard waste?
All your food and yard waste goes to Cedar Grove composting facilities in Everett or Maple Valley, where it's turned into compost in a matter of weeks. The average household's food scraps and yard trimmings produce five yards of compost each year, according to Cedar Grove.
Why should I compost?
- Compost to save money. A 96-gallon food+yard waste cart is included weekly with residential garbage service. By putting food scraps, yard waste, and food-soiled paper in your gray cart, you generate less trash. With less trash, you can opt for a smaller (and cheaper) garbage service level.
- Composting helps the climate by keeping food out of the landfill. Currently, about 20% of King County residential trash by weight is food. Food in the landfill breaks down very slowly in a process that emits methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. Landfills are the third largest source of human-related methane emissions in the US because of all the food and other organic materials that get thrown away. (Methane is captured at King County's landfill but it is best to prevent methane production rather than harvest it.)
- The process produces compost, a nutrient-rich fertilizer. By composting your food and yard waste, you "close the loop" so those nutrients can be returned to the soil.
- Compost is also used in stormwater projects to clean runoff to protect our lakes, rivers, and wetlands. (You can add a raingarden to capture and filter runoff in your yard!)
Composting all your food scraps and yard waste is the first step. Use compost in your own yard to return nutrients to the soil, suppress weeds, and reduce watering needs.