skip navigation
Share this:

Litter and Garbage Nuisances

This page provides examples of how cities and counties in Washington State are addressing litter and garbage nuisances, including illegal dumping, burning yard waste, and handbill regulations.

It is part of MRSC's series on Nuisances: Regulation and Abatement.


Many cities and counties in Washington have adopted the state's Model Litter Control Act (chapter 70A.200 RCW, formerly chapter 70.93) by reference. Others have restated its provisions and have included other provisions for items such as posting of handbills, dumping of trash, spillage of vehicle content onto public roads, sweeping of litter into gutters, and the duty of merchants to keep public areas free of litter.

Some local governments have also created "Adopt-a Street" programs for litter control. See MRSC's page on Volunteer Programs and Policies.

Comprehensive Litter Provisions

Dumping Trash or Litter

The control of unlawful dumping or littering generally is handled in one of three ways. The first is to pattern ordinances to the Model Litter Control Act. RCW 70A.200.060, which prohibits littering, would cover a situation where a person dumps trash or rubbish on public property or, without permission, on private property owned by another. In 1993, the state legislature decriminalized the penalty for violating the littering regulations in chapter 70A.200 RCW.

In addition to handling litter control under chapter 70A.200 RCW, some jurisdictions appear to criminalize the dumping of trash under their garbage control provisions, presumably imposing the criminal penalty assigned to any general misdemeanor.

Finally, once litter or garbage has been deposited on property, many cities require its removal by the property owner. Failure to do so may constitute a nuisance, which is subject to criminal penalty and may require abatement.

Dumping or Burning Yard Debris/Waste


Provisions for the distribution of handbills vary little from place to place other than a slight variant in wording.


Uncollected and improperly stored accumulations of solid wastes can cause fires, stench, and attract rodents and insects.

Recommended Resources

Last Modified: April 05, 2023