Seattle is embracing a fresh perspective for the new year, urging a shift toward waste prevention and material reuse as key strategies to achieve the city’s bold vision of a future without waste. This “Zero Waste” approach outlined in the Seattle Public Utilities’ 2022 Solid Waste Plan Update: Moving Upstream to Zero Waste goes beyond the traditional recycling norms, advocating for producing and using less to effectively combat the adverse impacts of climate change.  

Seattle is a leader in best practices in materials management, an approach that looks at the entire lifecycle of materials to address the underlying causes of waste and lessen impacts on both the environment and public health. The vision of zero waste builds upon a rich history of environmental stewardship that dates to the city’s early adoption of recycling in the mid-1980s. 

“To progress towards Zero Waste, we must move beyond recycling and prioritize waste from occurring in the first place. By adopting practices such as reducing, reusing, repairing, and sharing, we can cut down 45% of global emissions stemming from the production and consumption of goods and food,” said Andrew Lee, SPU General Manager and CEO. “For example, composting food waste is one of the most impactful actions we can take to reduce landfill emissions.”  

The 2022 Plan Update guides how Seattle will manage and finance solid waste management services and facilities over the period 2022-2027, projects system management needs over 20 years, and maintains a focus on encouraging responsible recycling. It provides nearly 40 recommendations, including waste prevention and diversion from landfills through policies and improved enforcement of existing solid waste rules and regulations; incentives, like investments in the circular economy; and programs focused on high-impact opportunities such as food waste reduction and construction material reuse and salvage. 

 The city believes that moving towards “Zero Waste” involves examining material life cycles to address the root causes of waste and mitigate potential harm to individuals, communities, and the environment. The focus of the plan aims to reduce waste and toxins, prevent pollution, lower carbon emissions, and protect natural resources.  

With the adoption of the 2022 Plan Update, Seattle will establish new metrics to measure success, moving beyond the recycling rate and looking at how we produce and reduce waste to benefit communities and the environment.  

As we dive into the new year, learn more about our 2022 Plan Update, as well as our Waste Prevention Planning efforts at