It’s not waste anymore at King County Transfer Stations

King County is reducing our impact on the environment by helping residents and businesses increase recycling at County owned transfer stations, keeping reusable and recyclable items out of the landfill.

Transfer station recycling is up by 2,057 tons or 49 percent over the first half of this year, due largely to a 21 percent jump in yard waste recycling, a 60 percent spike in scrap metal recycling, and a more than 400 percent increase in wood waste recycling.

New roof at the Houghton Transfer Station in Kirkland

New roof at the Houghton Transfer Station in Kirkland

These increases are the result of a number of changes, including the full restoration of recycling services at Shoreline, Renton, and Houghton transfer stations in April 2013, the opening of a new recycling area at Bow Lake Recycling & Transfer Station last October, and the launch of a new Resource Recovery Pilot at Shoreline transfer station.

“Through the pilot we’re actively removing materials from the waste stream,” transfer station recycling manager Eric Johnson said.

The pilot has a two-pronged approach. The first aspect of the program directs self-haulers to recycling bins where recyclable materials can be placed, and the second involves sorting incoming material.

“We’re actively segregating material on the floor that’s coming in as mixed waste and mechanically removing the cardboard, wood and metal,” Johnson said.

After the first three months of the pilot program, Shoreline Transfer Station recycled a combined 677 tons of cardboard, metal, and wood, two-and-a-half times more than the same three-month period in 2013.

On June 1, the transfer stations also began comingling paper, mixed containers, and glass into a single container.

“Before we had separate bins, and now these materials can all go into one. It is simpler for customers and mirrors what most King County residents do at home. We hope to get higher participation by allowing them to do that at the transfer stations too,” Johnson said.

Other recycling efforts that are underway include an updated intranet site for employees to share information about recycling, and a newly formed “Recycling and Materials Recovery Committee” which includes members across the County’s Solid Waste Division (SWD) who are working on implementing initiatives for improving recycling at transfer stations.

One such initiative already achieving results is how the stations now handle used appliances dropped off for recycling. By separating appliances at the transfer stations and sending them to different processors SWD reduces processing costs and receives more revenue for scrap metal. Accumulated savings for the first half of this year is more than $16,000

All of these changes mean that materials previously considered waste are being kept out of the waste stream and are instead being recycled into new products, whether that’s back into glass, paper or plastic, or turned into compost for use in local gardens.

“It is the efforts of the transfer station staff which is having the biggest impact on improving transfer station recycling. It is our employees’ willingness to take on new challenges as with the Shoreline Resource Recovery Pilot and their handling of ever increasing amounts of recyclable materials that is driving our success” Johnson said.

Looking forward, the transfer stations plan to expand the Shoreline pilot into the Enumclaw Recycling and Transfer Station, and then include Bow Lake at the start of 2015 – good news for our residents and our environment.