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Seattle celebrates composting with 'big dig' for treasure

Food and yard waste make up more than a third of Seattle’s waste stream. Much of that used to go into the trash, but now it’s being composted.

Since 2009, the city has been providing weekly pick up of organic waste. Last year it dramatically increased the kinds of things allowed in municipal compost bins, to include meats and dairy products. Seattle residents composted 125,000 tons of food and yard waste last year. That represents a big shift over the past decade or so.

Nowadays, basically only about 30 percent of the waste produced in Seattle ends up in landfills. That's a big part of what makes the city a national leader in recycling. 

"It’s a really a testimony to our citizens’ passion for recycling," says Susan Tomin, with Cedar Grove composting. "You give them the option and they really - when they do it, they do it big."

To celebrate, Seattle and Cedar Grove are sponsoring a scavenger hunt over the next few weeks, for free bags of compost. Residents are invited to search for posters of the Cedar Grove mascot, "Corey - the compostable apple core" at 30 locations all over the city. Clues to the whereabouts areposted on Cedar Grove's web site, where the posters' codes can be redeemed for compost coupons. 

This year the competition will also culminate in a "Big Dig" on April 14th, where 20 participants will shovel through a mountain of compost to find treasures including a grand prize yard makeover worth $3,000.

The organizers say this unique brand of fun brings the composting full circle and helps people understand what they’re actually making when they recycle their food and yard waste.

Bellamy Pailthorp covers the environment for KNKX with an emphasis on climate justice, human health and food sovereignty. She enjoys reporting about how we will power our future while maintaining healthy cultures and livable cities. Story tips can be sent to