Solid Waste and Recycling

​​​Solid Waste Group

In May 2022, the City formed a Solid Waste Group in the Public Works Department to address the recognized need for more focused attention on solid waste management. This group is dedicated to upholding Bellingham’s natural beauty by addressing environmental safety and health concerns, water quality hazards, right-of-way obstructions, code compliance issues, litter clean-up, and more. We achieve this through waste prevention, waste disposal, and resource recovery. City staff promote solid waste management best practices through education and the development of community partnerships.

As of November 2023, the Solid Waste Group has responded to more than 3,000 customer service requests ranging from simple litter issues to illegal dumping concerns. We have removed more than one million pounds of waste from Bellingham rights-of-way, parks, and other City properties.

Waste Prevention

We implement and coordinate programs to reduce the amount of solid waste generated in Bellingham, including:

Residential recycling and garbage services in Bellingham are provided by Sanitary Service Company (SSC) under a contract to the City. Please contact SSC directly with questions about your garbage or recycling service.

Changes to Residential Recycling and Waste Collection Services

The City has been coordinating with SSC on proposed changes to Bellingham’s residential recycling and waste collection services, including switching to single-stream recycling and adding organics collection as a minimum service level for all single-family residential SSC customers. These changes would improve collection efficiency and customer convenience while reducing litter and climate emissions. Learn more about the proposed changes.

The City partners with Sustainable Connections to provide education about reducing single-use plastic waste. Learn about local and state measures aimed at reducing single-use plastics in Bellingham.

To go food containers made from paper

The City offers educational materials and programs about litter and illegal dumping:

Waste Disposal

The Solid Waste Group removes waste from property owned and managed by the City, such as City rights-of-way (ROW), Parks property, and City habitat restoration sites. Waste issues on public property can be reported using SeeClickFix. This work allows us to protect our greenways and waterways from contamination, benefitting human and environmental health.

Garbage Collection

Hazardous Waste

SSC does not accept hazardous, toxic, radioactive or dangerous wastes, dead animals or hot ashes. Examples of some types of common household hazardous waste include:

  • paints
  • fluorescent lights
  • old gasoline
  • oil
  • solvents
  • antifreeze
  • asbestos (siding, shingles, floor adhesive, etc.)
  • pesticides/herbicides/other liquid chemicals.

To dispose of these types of wastes, please visit the Disposal of Toxics Program website or call (360) 380-4640. The Disposal of Toxics program accepts a variety of household hazardous waste from Whatcom County residents. Chemical wastes from Whatcom County businesses are also accepted with prior approval.

Prevention Pollution for Businesses

Please visit our Pollution Prevention for Businesses webpage if you are a business looking for information about reducing pollution and managing waste.

Sharps Disposal

Visit the Whatcom County Health Department website to learn how to properly dispose of needles and sharps.


Medications that are not disposed of properly can end up in our waterways, drinking water, and Bellingham Bay. Learn about safe medication return.

The City partners with the Downtown Bellingham Partnership on clean-up efforts in downtown Bellingham. A few of these efforts are summarized below and described in more detail on our Downtown District webpage.

Covered garbage bin on sidewalk at intersection.
BigBelly covered garbage bin at the corner of Holly Street and Railroad Avenue.

Covered Garbage Bins: The City is testing out covered garbage bin options to reduce litter in downtown Bellingham and Fairhaven. We plan to eventually replace all of the existing open bins with covered bins. Covered bins keep out wind and rain, preventing the garbage in them from becoming litter or leachate – a contaminated liquid that can be produced when garbage and rainwater mix – that could end up in nearby waterways.

Staff operating a large vactor truck and pressure washer in an alley.
City staff deep cleaning the Railroad/Cornwall alleyway using a hot water pressure washer and vactor truck.

Street and Alleyway Cleaning: Downtown roadways, bike lanes, and on-street parking areas are cleaned by City street sweepers two days per week. Additionally, we deep clean sections of downtown alleyways once per month with thorough street sweeping, detailed litter pick-up and hot water pressure washing.

The City’s Purple Bag Program is intended to serve community members interested in organizing cleanup crews and events.

Purple bags full of trash sitting next to road.

We will provide resources to community members interested in establishing litter crews to help keep our City sidewalks and streets free of litter. Once a litter crew has been established, we will coordinate regular municipal waste collection services. Please contact us at if you would like to learn more about this program.

The City cleans up unauthorized homeless encampments that have been abandoned on public property. Cleanup efforts are intended to help maintain public health and safety. The City offers a number of direct services for people experiencing homelessness, including garbage dumpsters, access to water and showers, and free vouchers for wastewater dumps for people living in recreational vehicles.

Crews digging out shopping carts buried deep in creek.

The City’s subsidy of a seasonal woody debris (“Clean Green”) transfer station has ended. However, there are options for year-round pick-up of yard waste and compost.

Benefits of this program transition are:

  • There are more choices for where and how to compost
  • The City is no longer paying to ship the composted material out of the area
  • The City can provide free yard waste disposal a few, critical times a year

Resource Recovery

In areas where City staff have removed waste, we make efforts to recover the area by using site stabilization techniques and temporary barriers to prevent further damage to vegetation. We coordinate with the City’s Habitat Restoration program and Parks Department when working on City-owned property.

A group of ducks sitting in Whatcom Creek and on the streambanks.
Ducks enjoying Whatcom Creek at a recently cleaned site.

Report an Issue

Private Property: The City does not manage waste on private property. Waste issues on private property are the property owner’s responsibility.



For more information, please contact the Bellingham Public Works Department.