SPU’s “Where Does It Go” explains how to properly recycle and compost

By Jocelyn Chui

Even in an eco-friendly city like Seattle, recycling can be very confusing with the variety of waste generated on a daily basis. However, the good news is that Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) has made many tools available for Seattleites to educate themselves on the best recycling etiquette.

“Where does it go”, which is also known as “look it up”, is an online tool launched by SPU eight years ago to help local residents to determine how and where to dispose their unwanted things.

“It is one of the most frequently used tools on SPU’s website,” said Becca Fong, solid waste communications and outreach specialist of SPU. “It is available in multiple languages via internet translation tools such as Google Translator at this time.”

SPU is able to track the most common things that people are uncertain about when it comes to recycling.

“We use that information to develop educational materials that highlight those items,” Fong said.

By making sure recycling and composting are done properly at local households and businesses, the city can minimize the impact on the environment through reuse of materials, and hence, lessen the burden on landfills.

In addition, sorting recyclable and compostable into the right bins can help save the time of the recyclers and composters from sorting out items that do not belong in the appropriate category.

“The recyclers and composters can spend their time processing the materials for their next use,” Fong said. “If there are too many missorted items, the potentially recyclable items must be thrown away as garbage.”

Fong suggested local residents to get into a habit of actively thinking which bin the waste belongs while throwing trash away.

“If you can compost or recycle it, please do,” Fong said. “That allows those items to go onto become usable again.  We have lots of tools to help you understand ‘where does it go.’ We’re all in this together and together we’ll make a big difference in creating less waste.”


To try out “Where does it go”, visit seattle.gov/util/MyServices/LookItUpWhatsAccepted/index.htm


Where does it go?

Question: Dry sheets?

Answer: These go into the garbage. Sheets to reduce static in the dryer are made from polyester substrate and not accepted for recycling.

Question: Fluorescent light bulbs

Answer: All fluorescent lights, such as tubes and compact (CFL) bulbs, contain mercury and are banned from Seattle’s garbage. Search for light bulb collection sites via SPU’s online tool.

Question: Plastic with recycling number 1-7?

Answer: Seattle does not recycle by numbers. Rinse and place most plastic containers, bags, bottles or lids in the recycling bin. Plastic-like containers or utensils that marked “compostable” or “cedar grove compostable” can be placed into yard waste cart.

Question: Fats, oils and grease?

Answer: These are known as “F.O.G.” and they cannot be recycled or composted. Throw F.O.G. into covered disposable container and place it in trash.

Question: Pet waste and litter?
Answer: Put dog poop and used kitty litter into the garbage. Double bag, tie off tightly to prevent air inside. This prevents bags from “exploding” near workers, when compacted.

Question: Gel packs?
Answer: Gel hot and cold packs go in the garbage. They are not recyclable or compostable.

Question: Candles?
Answer: Candles need to be cooled, and then can go into the garbage. Minimally used candles may also be accepted by second-use stores.