Goal Update

2022: 67% diversion rate (67% of material diverted away from the landfill)

Goal: Become a zero-waste (90% diversion rate) operating facility

Diversion from the landfill

The Seattle Aquarium has an extensive and robust history of waste and materials management. The Aquarium began composting in the animal preparation kitchen in 2008 and implemented full front- and back-of-house composting in 2010. Combined with a robust recycling program, the Aquarium passed a 50% diversion rate (more than half of disposed material diverted from the landfill) in 2016, and by 2018 had achieved a 64% diversion rate. 

Diversion rate

Recent Efforts

Priority Strategies

Implement on-floor interpretation for public education

Most people think of waste when they hear the term “sustainability.” Connecting waste management with the Aquarium’s ocean ethic through on-the-floor interpretation by staff and volunteers will improve public knowledge about ways to be more sustainable and will have an impact both within and outside of the Seattle Aquarium’s doors.

Improve and increase internal signage

Clear, concise and consistent signage is a necessary component of any successful waste management program. Signage should be relevant to the products commonly found throughout the Aquarium.

Conduct an audit of less-typical waste streams

Staff identified a number of products that cannot simply go into mixed recycling or compost. A non-exhaustive list includes large item disposal, batteries, e-waste and clothing. Identifying and planning for these products will ensure that the Seattle Aquarium is successful in achieving zero waste.

Identify common compost and recycling contaminants and seek opportunities for reduction

Zero waste is generally measured as a diversion rate. However, what happens to the material after it leaves the Seattle Aquarium is what matters. Contaminated compost and recycling often goes to the landfill. Identifying common contaminants and addressing these contaminants through signage, education and purchasing changes will lead to better outcomes.

Switch from paper to digital signage

Where appropriate, digital signage can save waste from production and improve the speed of rolling out new signage.

Inform vendors of goals and influence vendors to provide materials and services that align with the goals 

The Seattle Aquarium can influence vendors to improve their practices and provide products that support rather than hinder the Seattle Aquarium’s goals. 

Donate excess food to the food bank 

Although food waste is low, food generates significant emissions and wasting food provides no benefit. Food banks and other distribution systems provide a way to ensure that this food helps people who need it and aligns with the Seattle Aquarium’s equity work. 

Develop an internal program for educating staff about waste streams 

Staff are fundamental to ensuring that the Seattle Aquarium is successful in becoming a zero waste facility. Continuous education and improvement is critical. 

Workshop in small teams to identify opportunities to reduce waste 

Different teams produce different waste and each team is an expert on itself. Teams can identify primary sources of waste and work with a central coordinator to identify ways to reduce waste. 

Tell our sustainability story 

Communicating the story of the Seattle Aquarium’s waste successes and connects these successes to the Aquarium’s mission will build public awareness of ways to act more sustainably.

Our Goals