2016 Summary


Food Diversion Cart Tag Study
Food Diversion Cart Tag Study

As part of a regional food scraps study, over 600 waste samples were collected and sorted in 2016

In 2016, Waste Management participated in the Food Diversion Cart Tag Study coordinated by the King County Solid Waste Division (KCSWD). The study is being carried out over 18 months in three pilot areas throughout King County and is still in progress as of the end of 2016. It evaluates whether placing educational tags that encourage food scrap composting on residential curbside carts increases household participation in composting. The study also assesses how frequently carts need to be tagged into order to sustain participation over time.

For households in many parts of King County, including unincorporated areas serviced by Waste Management, participation in food diversion and yard waste collection is voluntary. But, increasing household participation is essential for reducing environmental impacts and achieving countywide waste diversion goals. So, with that in mind, the tags were designed using community-based social marketing principles to prompt households to put their food scraps and food soiled paper in their yard waste carts.

As part of the study, households on three of Waste Management's residential organics routes in unincorporated King County (including one route each in the Redmond Ridge, Sammamish, and Woodinville areas) received up to three tags in 2016, depending on the frequency assigned to their address. Only households that already subscribed to organics collection service and that had either a garbage or yard waste cart set out during tagging received tags.

Two waste audits conducted as part of the study in 2016-one prior to cart tag placement and a second six months into the tagging activity-involved sorting waste samples collected from randomly selected households on each route. In total, over 600 samples were collected and sorted from households along Waste Management routes included in the study. Findings from the audits have already uncovered important information about household food generation and diversion behavior.

The study is scheduled to continue through Spring 2017. A full report of findings from the study will be published in 2017.


Download the Flyer

A November E-blast had a
42% open rate, 110 percent higher than the national average

Waste Management continued outreach efforts to the existing community of King County Foodcyclers providing ongoing education on curbside composting. The e-blasts were sent to this existing list of Foodcyclers in King County to continue engaging them in composting behavior. Content was planned on a 2016-2017 editorial calendar, addressing relevant topics throughout the two-year campaign.

Starting in late August, 2016, a total of three e-blasts were sent to Foodcyclers. The open rate averaged 40 percent, twice the industry standard for email marketing. An early November e-blast titled, "Compost Fans Unite!" included tailgating tips and ways to reduce yard debris in the fall. This e-blast resulted in an impressive 42 percent average open rate, 110 percent higher than the national average. It also garnered over a dozen individual responses from Foodcyclers with personal tips and suggestions to share with the community. The successful Foodcycler e-blast campaign will continue quarterly in 2017 with tips to make composting easier, clarify confusing items, and provide incentives, promotions and details on upcoming events.

Open Rate
Summertime Composting
Fall Composting:
Compost Fans Unite!
Foodcycler: Make 2017 Your Greenest Year Yet

Foodcycler Recruitment through Direct Mail

To grow the Foodcycling community in 2016, the highly successful direct mail flier from 2013 was repurposed and mailed to 1,342 customers who had signed up for food and yard waste service within the previous three months. Customers were encouraged to take the Foodcycling pledge online in exchange for a sample of BioBag™ compostable bags and a coupon with a discount for additional bags. The mailing resulted in 32 pledges, a 2.4 percent uptake, which is less than half the average response rate for direct mail and significantly less than the 5,000 responses to the 2013 direct mail which offered a free kitchen compost container.

Container Distribution Planning

Waste Management is identifying locations to hold food waste container distribution events. These would provide the remaining Foodcyclers in King County who have not yet received a container an opportunity to pick one up.

Organics Contamination Work Group Pilot
Organics Contamination Work Group Pilot
Waste Management participates in the regional Organics Contamination Reduction Workgroup (OCRW), a group formed to tackle contamination in the organics stream from a variety of angles. Waste Management brings expertise to the Education and Outreach subcommittee and the Policy subcommittee.

In 2016, Waste Management collaborated on a pilot project to test cart tagging protocols developed by the OCRW Policy subcommittee. The pilot aimed to identify improvements to cart tagging protocols and assess the effectiveness in reducing contamination in the organics waste stream. In September, Waste Management residential and commercial food/yard waste drivers identified contamination in plain sight and applied a cart tag, which initiated varying levels of outreach from Waste Management staff. The findings of this pilot will be published in the Organics Contamination Reduction Workgroup's 2016 report.

Pilot project tested cart tagging protocols

Compost Deliveries
Partnering with Snohomish County and Washington State University Extension, Waste Management supported compost deliveries to farms in Snohomish County. Through this partnership, nearly 1,500 cubic yards of compost were delivered to 32 local farms. This project helped Waste Management learn more about the barriers and benefits to applying compost to local farms. Some key findings include:

  • Compost generally has a beneficial impact on crop production and soil quality

  • The top barriers to using compost in agriculture are compost price, spreading equipment and time, compost delivery, plastic contamination, and lack of information

  • Creating opportunities for interaction between farmers and compost providers is essential for forming a connection between these industries

  • Compost price is variable, reflecting changes in seasonal sales and supply and demand market forces, making it difficult for farmers to plan their budget year-to-year

  • Christmas trees have shown substantial growth using compost and may be a good target market for municipal compost

Nearly 1,500 cubic yards of compost delivered to 32 local farms

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