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Solid Waste Collection, Recycling, and Disposal

This page provides information about solid waste collection and disposal for local governments in Washington State, including legal requirements, solid waste management plans, collection options, and examples of local policies, procedures, rates, and contracts.



Overview

In RCW 70A.205.010, the Washington State Legislature states:

The purpose of this chapter is to establish a comprehensive statewide program for solid waste handling, and solid waste recovery and/or recycling which will prevent land, air, and water pollution and conserve the natural, economic, and energy resources of this state. To this end it is the purpose of this chapter:

(1) To assign primary responsibility for adequate solid waste handling to local government, reserving to the state, however, those functions necessary to assure effective programs throughout the state;

(2) To provide for adequate planning for solid waste handling by local government; ...,

While Washington cities and counties have primary responsibility for managing solid waste collection and disposal, they are not required to directly provide those services. See RCW 35.21.120, RCW 35.21.130, and RCW 36.58.040. The statutes do not mandate that all residents and businesses have their trash collected by a public or private hauler.

Washington State Department of Ecology's Beyond Waste and Toxics Progress Report page provides a means to monitor progress toward the statewide purposes and goals of chapter 70A.205 and to adopt rules establishing minimum functional standards for solid waste handling.


Statutes

  • RCW 35.21.120 - 35.21.158 - Solid Waste Disposal (Cities and Towns)
  • RCW 35.92.020 - Authority for cities to acquire and operate solid waste systems and facilities.
  • RCW 35A.21.060 - Garbage ordinance--Lien--Foreclosure.
  • RCW 35A.14.900 - Cancellation, acquisition of franchise or permit for operation of public service business in territory annexed--Regulation of solid waste collection.
  • RCW 35.13.280 - Cancellation, acquisition of franchise or permit for operation of public service in territory annexed--Regulation of solid waste collection.
  • RCW 35.02.160 - Cancellation, acquisition of franchise or permit for operation of public service in territory annexed--Regulation of solid waste collection.
  • RCW 35A.21.152 - Solid waste collection--Rate increase notice.
  • RCW 35A.21.153 - Solid waste collection curbside recycling--Reduced rate.
  • Ch. 70A.205 - Solid Waste Management Reduction and Recycling
  • Ch. 81.77 RCW - Solid Waste Collection Companies
  • Ch. 36.58 RCW - Solid Waste Disposal (Counties)
  • Ch. 36.58A RCW - Solid Waste Collection Districts

Solid Waste Management Plans (SWMPs)

RCW 70A.205.040 requires each county within the state, in cooperation with the various cities located within such county, to prepare a coordinated, comprehensive solid waste management plan (SWMP). The statute encourages joint solid waste planning between and among adjoining cities and counties.

The plan must include the items listed in RCW 70A.205.045. In 2019, a new provision was added requiring all counties with a population greater than 25,000 to include a recycling contamination reduction and outreach plan by July 1, 2021 to reduce contamination in recycling. Counties may adopt their own plans or use the statewide Contamination and Reduction and Outreach Plan (CROP).

Local governments are also encouraged by statute to incorporate food waste reduction strategies consistent with the Department of Ecology's Use Food Well Washington Plan, which has been delayed due to the impacts of COVID-19 and is expected to be published in October 2021.

Also see the Department of Ecology's Guidelines for the Development of Local Solid Waste Management Plans and Plan Revisions (2010).

Examples of SWMPs


Solid Waste Collection and Recycling Service Options

Cities and counties have the following options with regard to solid waste collection (including recycling):

WUTC Sets Rates and Service Area

If a municipality does not provide collection service or contract for such service, the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (WUTC) sets the service area and rates for private firms that may wish to serve the municipality. In case of an annexation, a city is required to grant a franchise to the WUTC-regulated solid waste collector that serves the area annexed for a period of seven years after it notifies the WUTC of its intent to provide or regulate collection services inside the city. (RCW 35.02.160)

Municipality Collection Service and Billings

A municipality provides municipal collection service and billings.

Examples of Municipal Codes

Municipality Contracts with Another Municipality

Under the Washington State Interlocal Cooperation Act, Ch. 39.34 RCW, the municipality can contract with another local agency, city or county for solid waste collection services. Only very small cities are using this option.

Municipality Contracts with Private Firm with Municipality Controlling Billings and Rates

Municipality contracts with waste hauler for collection and recycling services, but continues to do billings and control rates.

Examples of Municipal Codes

Municipality Contracts with Private Firm with Municipality Only Controlling Rates

Municipality contracts with waste hauler for collection and recycling services, waste hauler does billings, but the Municipality controls rates.

Examples of Municipal Codes

Municipality Licenses or Franchises Private Firm

Municipality grants franchise or license to a waste hauler or haulers, with WUTC control over rates and billings.

Examples of Municipal Codes


Examples of Contracts for Garbage and Recycling


Examples of Garbage Rates


Recycling, Biosolids and Composting


Recommended Resources

Washington State Department of Ecology

Other Government Resources

Associations


Last Modified: April 02, 2021