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  • Jenica Barrett

My Experience with Curbside Composting Across Three Cities

Composting isn't always dirt, worms, and smelly piles! Curbside composting programs offer city residents a way to compost regardless of what types of place they live in. Making the sustainable choice to compost is as simple as taking out your garbage and recycling!

Curbside composting is the way of the future!

We've all gotten used to the idea of curbside trash pickup and recycling bins - curbside composting works just the same way! Residents are supplied with bins that they fill up with food and yard scraps (organic material only!) that is picked up at regular times just like everything else.

The benefits of curbside composting (and composting in general) are numerous. You can read all about why you should participate in curbside composting if it's an option in a separate post. Here, I've detailed my experience with three different curbside, industrial composting programs across three cities.

In summary? Curbside composting couldn't be easier - no matter which city I'm in!

Why compost at all? Read about the benefits of curbside composting and why it's so important not to toss our food scraps in the trash!

Jenica dumping compost into a curbside compost bin Pinterest Pin

1. FoodPlus! in Bellingham, WA

Bellingham was where I was exposed to my first city-wide composting program! At Western Washington University, composting bins were present in every dining hall and they've even implemented composting bins in the dorm rooms since I've graduated.

Bellingham's FoodPlus! bins are taken out to Lynden, Washington where all the material is processed in an industrial composting facility. The company, Cedar Grove, turns it back into garden soil and sells it by the truck load back to community partners and by individual bags.

You can order a truckload of compost delivered to your home, too! We set up our garden beds by ordering a delivery of our locally made compost right to our backyard! The garden beds are healthy, with lots of worms, and we were able to support a local business turning scraps into soil.

Cost of Curbside Composting in Bellingham

Residents within a certain radius of Bellingham can pay $9.99 a month to have a FoodPlus! bin picked up bi-weekly. There is also a $19.99 a month option for businesses that is picked up weekly.

Materials Accepted in Bellingham

Not only can you put food scraps in the bin, but also anything that is industrially compostable such as scotch tape, wax lined cups, and compostable silverware. To top it off, things such as meat and bones which can't usually be put in your home compost bin can be industrially composted through FoodPlus!

You can see a full list of what is accepted in the FoodPlus! program by visiting the Cedar Grove website. They also list out specific types of compostable bags that they accept - since plastic bags can't be used to gather up these food scraps!

Sign up now!

I highly recommend you sign-up for this program immediately if you are in Bellingham! I have spoken with Sanitary Services many times so don't hesitate to call them with questions! Here is their number: (360) 734-3490 and here is their website address as well Sanitary Services Whatcom County.


2. Composting Services in Portland, OR

I called Portland my home while attending my graduate program and enjoyed both a backyard compost bin AND the city curbside composting program.

Moving to Portland highlighted the importance of looking up local rules on garbage, recycling, and composting because there are no universal items across all services.

Portland has different rules about what can be composted if you are a household versus a business. Households can compost paper towels, for example, but businesses are barred from tossing paper towels in the compost bin.

All of Portland’s compost is taken to industrial composting facilities across Oregon which is them processed back into nutrient rich soil. The company, Recology, has soil available for purchase and sells soil back to manufacturing and landscaping companies in the area.

Cost of Curbside Composting in Portland

In Portland, both recycling and composting are built in services with garbage. That means residents paying for garbage service of any kind with get recycling and composting bins included. This creates an incentive to compost because it's not an extra service but one you have access to, regardless.

The cost for garbage, recycling, and composting service in total is from $28.55 to $43.60 depending on the size of the bin.

Businesses will have different prices for composting services and can choose from a variety of waste management providers approved by the city.

Materials Accepted in Portland

Portland's composting program accepts less items that in Bellingham and Seattle. Portland accepts all types of food scraps including dairy products, meat, and bones. They do not, however, accept "compostable" products such as corn-based plates and cups. They also don't allow waxed covered boxes.

Besides food scraps, you can toss in tea bags, coffee filters, napkins, paper towels, and pizza boxes into your Portland compost bin. But be careful! Businesses have different requirements and certain things like paper towels and paper napkins are only allowed in residential composting bins.

If you have specific questions on what can and cannot be placed in your compost bin, contact the composting hotline 503-823-7202 or

Sign up now!

As long as you are signed up for garbage services, you'll be receiving composting services too! In Portland, landlords are responsible for setting up and paying for this service so reach out to them if you have any issues!

Curbside composting bins don't allow plastic trash bags. So what do you collect your food scraps in? Special compostable bags, of course!


3. Food & Yard Waste in Seattle, WA

I've lived in Seattle since July of 2019 and have been enjoying their curbside composting service ever since! Both of our apartments have included the service in our rental terms.

Seattle's food scraps and yard waste are all collected by the City through large green bins, similar to garbage and recycling pickup. All the compostable materials are brought to Cedar Grove which are processed in an industrial compost facility. Turns out the city of Seattle uses the same composting company as Bellingham!

Cedar Grove also sells the compost back at local garden retailers so you can benefit from your own composting! We filled our raised garden bins with a dump truck load of this compost - and the worms are enormous!

Cost of Curbside Composting in Seattle

To get your compost picked up in Seattle, it will cost between $6.60 to $13.00 per month depending on the size of can you want. For $6.60 you can get a little 13 gallon can or for $13 you can get a 96 gallon cart! There's also a nice 32-gallon can right in the middle for the average household.

Did you know that it's cheaper to pay for compost bin space than garbage bin space? Switching to a compost bin for your food and yard waste scraps will save you money in Seattle!

Materials Accepted in Seattle

Seattle Food & Waste accepts food scraps, soiled paper, compostable products and yard waste. Unlike Portland, Seattle accepts "compostable" products such as compostable silverware, containers, and other products labeled industrially compostable.

Seattle also accepts the same materials regardless of whether it's for a home or for a business so you're less likely to make any composting mistakes. To see a complete list of what can be placed in your curbside composting bin in Seattle, visit the Cedar Grove website.

Sign up now!

Food & Yard pickup is easy to sign up for! There are options for single family homes, apartments, multi-family units, as well as composting options for businesses!

Jenica holding a compost bucket Pinterest Pin

Does my city have curbside composting?

Unfortunately there is no massive database to tell you whether or not your city has a curbside composting program. The easiest way to figure it out is to do a quick internet search with the simple question "Does [city name] have curbside composting?".

If you don't have curbside composting, don't despair! There are still ways for you to compost at home using more traditional methods such as backyard composting, worm bins, and bokashi systems. You can also bring the idea to your city council to see if there is enough interest in setting up a new program city wide!

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1 Comment

Apr 24, 2021

Presently the facility that Bellingham uses is called, Green Earth Technologies.

I used to live in Sudden Valley and had the Food Plus service, now I live in Skagit Valley and have a backyard bin. Skagit offers curbside pick up and drop off composting through Skagit Soils. They do not accept compostable plastics because they don't break down in the time that is allotted.

I just returned from a driving trip to the southwest. I am always interested in other states practices of composting and recycling. I found it frustrating that even though restaurants give you compostable paper plates for dining, there were no bins to put them in. Most recycling bins are not labeled for what is acceptable so…

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