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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, compost, and examples of local policies, procedures, rates, and contracts.

New legislation: HB 1799, adopted in 2022, adds new standards for reducing organic waste disposal and increasing the volume of edible food recovery in coming years, including requiring certain jurisdictions to provide curbside compost collection service, allow for the siting of compost management facilities in development regulations, and adopt compost procurement ordinances.

For more information, see the following resources:



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.

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


Composting Organic Waste

Composting organic waste such as food scraps and yard waste provides a number of benefits, including reducing the amount of waste sent to landfills or incinerators, reducing greenhouse gas emissions from landfills, and providing soil benefits for the users of the finished compost.

By January 1, 2023, counties and cities with a population greater than 25,000 are required to adopt a compost procurement ordinance (RCW 43.19A.150). This requirement also applies to all cities and counties that provide organic material collection services under chapter 70A.205 RCW, regardless of population.

Any jurisdiction required to adopt a compost procurement ordinance must also develop strategies to inform residents about the value of compost and how the jurisdiction uses compost and submit annual reports to the Department of Ecology by December 31 of each year (beginning in 2024) on the previous year's compost procurement activities.

The purpose of the compost procurement requirements is to strengthen markets for the increasing amount of compost generated statewide by requiring local governments to plan for the use of compost in landscaping projects, construction and postconstruction soil amendments, and other projects.

Any development regulations to implement comprehensive plans under chapter 36.70A RCW (Growth Management Act) or chapter 36.70 RCW that are developed, updated, or amended after January 1, 2025 must allow for the siting of organic materials management facilities in the areas identified in RCW 70A.205.040(3)(a)(i), which puts priority areas in industrial zones, agricultural zones, or rural zones (see RCW 36.70A.142 and RCW 36.70.330).

For more information on composting and the recent legislative changes, see the Department of Ecology webpages on Compost and 2022 Organics Management Law, as well as the 2022 Organics Management Law focus sheet that provides an overview of the compost procurement ordinance requirements along with links to sample policies and resources.

Beginning January 1, 2027, each jurisdiction that implements a local solid waste plan under RCW 70A.205.040 must provide source-separated organic solid waste collection services in accordance with RCW 70A.205.540. However, this statute has a number of exceptions that take into account factors such as total population size, solid waste generation levels, population density, and urban growth area boundaries.


Examples of Garbage Rates


Recycling and Biosolids


Recommended Resources

Washington State Department of Ecology

Other Government Resources

Associations


Last Modified: November 01, 2022