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Waste Free 253

Waste Free 253 is a collection of resources to help Tacoma residents be more aware and responsible about personal waste prevention and reduction. Even small, daily actions aimed at reducing consumption and waste can help us achieve our collective environmental goals.


New Law Goes Into Effect for Single-Use Food and Drink Items

Starting in January 2022, customers will have to verbally confirm that they want single-use serviceware, or they must select items from self-service bins instead of having them automatically included with a food order. Single-use food and drink items included in this new law include plastic utensils, straws, condiment packages, and cup lids for cold beverages. Information about this law can be found at www.ecy.wa.gov/serviceware


Why be “Waste Free”?

Preventing and reducing waste in your daily life can help:

  • Reduce your carbon footprint and environmental impact
  • Send less waste to the landfill
  • Encourage resourcefulness and resilience
  • Save money by reducing single-use items 

Being “waste free” does not necessarily mean living entirely without waste. It is not a competition, or an idea that should be limited to a few individuals. We can all work to reduce waste in our own way!



Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle - is that all?

You may have heard the phrase “reduce, reuse, recycle”. Sometimes other actions are added like “rethink, reuse, respect, repair, rally”, among others. That’s a lot of “R’s” to remember! At the City of Tacoma, we encourage everyone to take actions that make the most sense to you and your family. Here are some of the basics:



Reduce waste from entering your home. Ask yourself questions like:


  • “Do I actually need this item?”
  • “Do I already own something similar?”
  • “Can I borrow this instead of buying new?”
  • “Is this item recyclable, or made from recycled material?” 
  • “Is this a high-quality product that will last a long time?” 
  • “Can this be electronic or paperless?”

Start simple by trying these ideas:


Choose experiences over stuff. Spending time or money on experiences is often more rewarding and enjoyable than purchasing an item. Create memories, not waste!


Pay attention to packaging. When you do purchase items, opt for items with minimal packaging, made from recycled materials, or packaged in something reusable or recyclable.


Bring your own. Swap out single-use items when possible, like grocery bags, coffee mugs, or durable containers. Check with your local retailers for options, discounts and rewards for bringing your own! 


Stop junk mail. If you receive flyers, catalogs, or other junk mail that you’d rather not, use a service like Catalog Choice to stop unwanted junk mail. Or, contact organizations directly and ask to be taken off their mailing list.

Say “no thank you” to single-use giveaways. Free giveaways from vendors at events, festivals, and celebrations can really pile up over time. Think about saying “no thank you” to freebees and giveaways if you don’t actually have a use for the item. If you’re organizing an event, consider giveaways that are more sustainable like reusable utensils, bags, or straws. 



Reuse what you already have by fixing items, borrowing, or buying second-hand:


Get creative. Repurpose, refurbish, repair, or reimagine items that you already have. Get started with an online search for reusing or repairing certain items. The possibilities are endless to give an old or damaged item new life!


Borrow or rent. If you only need to use an item once or infrequently, consider borrowing from a friend or renting from a local retailer. Online social media communities can also be a great resource for finding items to borrow from a neighbor.

Donate and thrift. Your gently used clothing, furniture, and other items just might be perfect for someone else. Find your favorite donation organization and make regular trips to drop-off.



Recycle and divert waste from the landfill:   

Recycle Right. Not all cities can recycle the same things. Make sure you know the rules and recyclable items in your area. In Tacoma, visit tacomarecycles.org to check what goes where before recycling or throwing items away. 

Choose recycled materials. Check an items packaging before you purchase to see if it’s made from recyclable materials. Sometimes items can be recycled over and over again. When we opt for items that can more easily be recycled, we’re helping to make sure that items don’t end up in a landfill.

When in doubt, find out! Recycling is an industry, and things can change. With improvements in technology, sometimes new items can be recycled that never could before. And sometimes items that were recyclable in the past are no longer accepted. Be sure to follow tacomarecycles.org/changes to stay up-to-date on what’s changed here in Tacoma.


Online Sharing

Share why, how, and when you work to be waste free here in Tacoma by using the hashtag #WasteFree253 on your favorite social media site. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram for ideas, inspiration, and creative waste free solutions:

You can also find and join your neighborhood’s Buy Nothing, NextDoor, or FreeCycle groups to give and receive items for free.

Local Inspiration

Join or follow these local online communities for tips on how to reduce waste at home and in Tacoma.  

If you are aware of another community that should be included, please email Sam Lake, Resource Conservation Specialist.


Encourage Your Favorite Business to Go Waste Free

Tacoma businesses that reduce their waste can earn free promotion from local organizations.  

Lead your workplace to better waste practices. 

  • Create a taskforce or host a conversation on waste reduction. Email our Resource Conservation Specialist for ideas.  
  • Ensure that your workplace has recycling and composting services with updated signs. 
  • Encourage your workplace to become EnviroStar certified.  

Where to Donate

The following list of donation sites and organizations is updated often, but we encourage you to contact each directly for updated information and availability.


Automobiles (working or non-working) 



Building Materials and Tools  

Clothing & Textiles 





If you are aware of another donation resource that should be included, please email Sam Lake, Resource Conservation Specialist. 

Check Out Your Local Tacoma Public Library

Our local Tacoma Public Libraries offer a variety of onsite and online resources that can help save your family money and reduce waste. (Please Note: Some of the resources listed below may be unavailable or altered due to current COVID-19 restrictions.)

Onsite resources include:  


Check out their A-Z eResource guide for online media, e-learning, genealogy resources and more. Some popular online resources include:

  • Creative Bug: nurture your creative side with 1,000+ video classes in painting, knitting, crafting and more
  • Lynda.com: learn software and technology skills through Lynda.com's video library of engaging top-quality courses
  • News & Newspapers: a collection of top national newspapers and other Independent and International news sources
  • OverDrive eBooks & Audiobooks: popular eBook & downloadable Audiobook collection available on your computer, mobile device, or eReader
  • Rosetta Stone Library Solution: enjoy level 1-5 of Rosetta Stone courses for 30 different language for free

Our Tacoma Public Libraries are experience Covid-19 impacts which may result in service changes. For the most recent updates and information, visit tacomalibrary.org/TPL-Now

How Does the City Support Waste Reduction?

The City of Tacoma's goal is to divert 70% of our community’s solid waste from landfills by 2028, in order to reduce our environmental impact. To achieve this goal, the City created two guiding documents. Explore these guiding documents to learn more about the City’s waste reduction goals:

City Ordinances  

Education and Outreach 

Campaigns: Bring Your Own Mug; Construction & Demolition Waste; FoodCycling; Food Too Good to Waste; Multi-Family Recycling; Preventing Wasted Food; Recycle Reset; Tacoma Food Saver Challenge; Sustainable Purchasing; Waste Free 253 


Education: EnviroChallenger; EnviroHouse Workshops; Sustainable Speaker Series 


Media: EnviroShorts; Urban Green; EnviroTalk; Ask the EnviroChallengers, EnviroHouse How-To Videos