Recycling Contamination


Let's keep up our efforts to ensure that our recycling won't return to the landfill in the future!

image of giant landfill in front of Mount Rainier

What is recycling contamination?

  • Following China's tightening of recycling requirements, waste haulers across the country have become more strict about what can go in the recycling bin. Read more about recycling contamination in Seattle by clicking here
  • How does the state of recycling in Seattle affect Seattle University?
    • SU's recycling waste regularly contains more than 10% contamination. The 6 main spoilers contaminating SU's recycling are styrofoam, plastic film/bags, food waste, liquids, textiles and e-waste.
    • Recycling is $70/ton while trash is $190/ton, that is close to 3x more expensive than recycling.
    • In 2018 SU sent 554 tons of trash to the landfill and 376 tons of recycling to recycling plants. If recycling is sent to landfill SU will see a $45,120 increase in waste costs.
  • Check out The Spectator's February article and The Spectator's March article about the recycling contamination problem.

Current State of SU's Recycling

  • Early February 2019, SU reached out to all campus members with a call to help reduce our recycling contamination.
  • On February 22nd, SU passed the major audit for the campus’ recycling, but the Student Center’s recycling failed another audit soon after. The Student Center recycling compactor (which collects recycling from the kitchens and dining areas) indicated a contamination rate of over 10%. Click here to view the campus audit and Click here to view the Student Center audit.
  • On April 12, another audit was performed by our recycling waste vendor Recology Cleanscapes. This time, the recycling compactor for the Student Center passed the test: SU's recycling contamination rate was below 10%. This means that 100% of the recycling generated on campus will now be spared from the landfill and be repurposed into new products
  • What will happen next? Recology Cleanscapes will continue to audit each recyling load we send them and look out for contamination. To ensure we meet their standards, we must continue to think before we throw and educate those around us to keep our recycling clean.
SU's recycling passed the audit and will be saved from the landfill!

Keep up our efforts to spare SU's recycling from the landfill in the future

Of recycling contaminated

SU must stay below 10% contamination

Cost of trash to recycling

The cost of trash is close to 3x the cost of recycling/ton

We need you to take action!

  • Make sure liquid and food containers are CLEAN and EMPTY before recyling them.
  • Put the RIGHT STUFF in the RIGHT BIN. Use the Where does it go? flyer for help.
  • Focus on common recyclables:
    1. PAPER - all paper
    2. CARDBOARD - even with labels and tape
    3. PLASTIC - containers, bottles and tubs
    4. GLASS - bottles and jars
    5. METAL - cans and scrap



  • The top 6 spoilers that do not belong in the blue recycling bins are styrofoam, plastic film/bags, food waste, liquidse-waste, and textiles. Click here to find out where they should go.
  • SPREAD THE WORD: Use the recycling media kit materials below; hang them around in your office, SU kitchen, dorms, bulletin boards... and send on to everyone you know.


SeattleU's NEW Waste Signage

Spread the word: use the following media kit materials and hang them around in your office, SU kitchen, dorms, bulletin boards... and send on to everyone you know:

Make sure all recyclables are clean before you put them in the bin, if you are unsure if it is recyclable or not, just throw it out! 




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