LinkUp: Supporting reuse and recycling markets 

Caption: Left to right: Daniel Harding of Salvation Army, Kris Beatty of King County and Liz Fikejs of Seattle Public Utilities

Whether you wait until spring to get your spring cleaning done or chip away at it throughout the year, be mindful of items that have a second or third life before labeling them as waste. 

The Solid Waste Division (SWD) LinkUp program works to expand markets for selected recyclable and reusable materials. Through this program, collaboration with businesses, public agencies and non-profits is helping extend the life of the King County landfill. 

“Our projects are designed to reduce barriers preventing materials being reused or retained in the economy as a resource through recycling,” said Program Manager Kris Beatty, who oversees multiple LinkUp project partnerships. “The current materials identified as priorities for King County are asphalt shingles, mattresses and textiles, but we’ll soon be adding projects to address wood from construction projects and plastics.” 

One recent LinkUp project has focused on textiles. Annually, about 40,000 tons of used textiles generated in Seattle and King County end up in landfills, but it’s estimated that 95% of that could have been reused or recycled. 

In 2013, LinkUp set about researching used textiles markets to look for opportunities to reduce waste of that material. “In that process, several of the larger textile collectors, such as Goodwill and Salvation Army, reported accepting textiles that are damaged, such has having holes, stains and broken zippers,” Kris said. “Consumer research showed that residents were unaware of that fact.” 

As a result, LinkUp worked with Seattle Public Utilities to develop Threadcycle – a public education campaign that encourages residents to donate all their used clothes, shoes and linens to participating organizations for reuse or recycling. Here is a full list of acceptable items. 

In 2016, 922,000 tons of solid waste was disposed at King County’s Cedar Hills Regional Landfill, and an estimated 70% of those materials could have been recycled. 

“Landfill space is valuable,” Kris said. “Extending the life of our landfill is a top priority for us, and a value to King County residents and businesses.” 

LinkUp is one of the Solid Waste Division’s complementary programs that are finding ways to increase reuse and recycling and reduce waste.