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You Can Help Divert Waste in Our Parks

By Todd Burley

Managing garbage in outdoor spaces comes with a host of challenges. In a home setting, residents can easily sort their waste into recycling, compost, and landfill thanks to the excellent system in place by Seattle Public Utilities. Seattle is known for its progressive waste management system that in 2020 diverted 54% of waste from the landfill. As an industry leader in this space, many cities around the country look to our community as an exemplar of how to deal with waste in the most responsible manner.

In our parks, however, there are a host of challenges to overcome to divert waste from the landfill. Beverage containers may not be emptied, plastic tubs will likely have food waste in them, paper may get wet, and often the wrong item gets put in the wrong bin, contaminating the rest of the container.  Add to that the wet weather, rodents and other wildlife, and dispersed location of our bins, and you can see how outdoor waste management is quite a challenge!

Seattle Parks and Recreation is piloting some new bins and decals to support proper waste sorting in our parks, and we’ll be conducting the second of two waste audits at some athletic fields to learn how we are doing. Yet there are ways that you can help, too.

Pack it in, Pack it out

One of the best ways to ensure your waste gets into the proper bin is to bring it home with you. This allows for recyclables to be rinsed and dried, something that is difficult to do in a park. Also, you’ll be able to compost your food waste, an option that isn’t available in most parks.

Empty and Dry

If you’ve got a bottle, make sure to empty the contents before you recycle it and remove the cap. Soda is not recyclable, and keeping it in the bottle risks contaminating other items. Plus, liquid is heavy! Our crews would appreciate less weight.

Stop, Read, Sort

Before you drop your waste in a bin, take a moment to ensure your items are going in the right place. Most parks will have black or gray bins that go to the landfill, blue bins for recycling, and some will have green bins for compostable items. Not sure what goes where, check out SPU’s Where Does it Go guide.

Report an Issue

While SPR staff are on the ground every day, with 489 parks to manage, your eyes can be a big help. If you see an issue with our waste bins, call our Parks Work Order line at (206) 684-7250 or report it on the Find it Fix it App.

Working together in community we can ensure that the waste in our parks gets to the right place. This reduces our environmental impact, preserves resources, and keeps our parks clean. In 2020 45,000 cubic yards of waste was diverted from the landfill. What can we do in 2022?

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