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UW ready to comply with new Seattle law

Thursday, January 15, 2015   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Anne Piacentino
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Source: The Daily of the University of Washington

January 12, 2015 at 9:21 PM | Lauren Wetzel
Reach reporter Lauren Wetzel at Twitter: @LaurenWetzel2

City’s composting ordinance impacts campus

A new composting ordinance went into effect in the city of Seattle on the first of the new year. The legislation prohibits food and other compostable items, like pizza boxes and other food-contaminated cardboard, paper napkins, and paper plates, from being placed in the trash.

For commercial, single-family, and multi-family residences, the ordinance requires that less than 10 percent of the contents in the garbage be compostable or recyclable.

If a single-family residency is found in violation of this they will receive a $1 fine. Commercial and multi-family residences will receive a $50 fine after two warnings.

For Timothy Croll, Solid Waste Division director at Seattle Public Utilities, the success of prior ordinances played a role in the new composting legislation.

According to Croll, the City of Seattle would like to reach a trash divergence rate of 60 percent by 2015. This means that of all that is thrown out, the city would like to be able to divert 60 percent of that away from the landfill and into composting and recycling facilities.

“Food and compostable paper are by far the largest targets left in the garbage can that are readily divertible,” Croll said. He hopes adding this new ordinance will help the city reach it’s divergence rate goal.

Thanks to similar goals, the UW is already well-prepared to comply with the ordinance.

“We’ve been [composting] for years,” said Michael Meyering, business and sustainability manager at UW Housing and Food Services (HFS). “We are here as a model that others can emulate.”

Meyering has been working with the food service units on campus for years to develop a work culture that supports sustainability in food service.

According to Meyering, the UW would like to reach a divergence rate of 70 percent by 2020. Currently, the university is already at 60 percent divergence.

“To have local legislation that helps that process is something we really welcome and really support,” Meyering said.

Meyering said composting at the UW began in 2007 with composting available only in the kitchens at food service units. Shortly after, the composting option became available for customers with the introduction of compostable packaging and composting units in the dining areas.

Compost from the UW is taken by Cedar Grove Composting to be composted locally in either Everett or Maple Valley. On the other hand, trash has to be taken by train hundreds of miles away to Eastern Oregon.

“If you look at it, composting is a lot cheaper than sending it to a landfill,” Meyering said. “There’s a lot of motivation there on the economic side.”

The dining halls aren’t the only areas on campus suited to comply to the new ordinance. Emily Newcomer, assistant director of Recycling & Solid Waste at UW, has been working to prepare the campus for the new ordinance.

“We are putting compost bins where they belong in breakrooms and in kitchens,” Newcomer said. “We are adding compost bins in hallways to try and capture that compostable coffee cup that a student might have walking to and from class.”

Thanks to the efforts of the UW’s recycling and solid waste programs, Newcomer said they have placed more than 300 composting bins throughout campus, making it easier than ever to correctly dispose of waste.

However, there is still room for improvement in waste collection on campus, according to Newcomer. She said she hopes the student body will play an active role in helping the UW reach its goals.

“If people come up with ways or have ideas to make [composting] less confusing or want our support, that’s what I want to hear,” Newcomer said.

To learn more about how the new law might affect you or to learn more about composting in general, visit

For those interested in learning more about campus sustainability generally, the UW’s Environmental Stewardship & Sustainability Office serves as an informational resource.

For more resources on campus sustainability, the Environmental Stewardship & Sustainability site is

Also see this infographic on composting at the UW:

 Washington State Recycling Association | 545 Andover Park W, Ste 209, Tukwila, WA 98188 | 206.244.0311 |

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