Recycling program builds relationships between King County and Spanish-speaking communities
Advancing our “We are responsible stewards” value
The Recicla más, or Recycle more program, provides information about recycling in Spanish to communities throughout King County. Started in 2011, Recicla más has relied on developing a partnership with facilitadores, or community educators, in the Latinx community to help improve and increase recycling. The Solid Waste Division (SWD), in the King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks, is further expanding this work with several multicultural/multilingual communities in King County to educate residents and businesses about recycling , composting, and waste prevention best practices. These partnerships ensure that the program educates and empowers these communities through culturally sensitive and culturally competent principles.
Gerty Coville, Program/Project Manager for Recicla más, explains why doing this work from an equity and social justice perspective is essential. Gerty has been with King County since 1990, and began her work in SWD in 2000. She explains how SWD regularly seeks to create programs that address community needs using an equity and social justice lens.
“The program addresses the needs of people in a way that resonates with them,” said Gerty. “This is a community we have not worked with before due to language, cultural and access barriers.”
Because management of solid waste has a direct impact on climate change, resource conservation, and environmental health, Gerty emphasizes how essential it is to have programs like Recicla más.
“Working directly with these communities, who are motivated to learn more about recycling, composting and waste prevention, will have big impacts in King County,” she said.
The program is managed by Gerty and includes 14 community educators, called facilitadores, five of whom serve on the leadership team developing outreach and engagement strategies. These facilitadores further expand existing partnerships between SWD and community groups to promote education about the importance of recycling. They help to develop program materials to teach the public, and bring feedback or ideas to the table for future equity and social justice efforts. This work helps build inroads to communities that may be hard to reach. This is essential to building trust with these communities so that the program makes a difference.
“The work we are doing providing services to these communities is impactful. These communities are growing and make up a growing percentage of our population,” said Gerty.
“We started with focusing on the Spanish speaking community because demographically the Spanish language community comprises about 11% of the King County residential population. We make great efforts to reach multiple dialects within the Spanish-speaking community,” she added.
The program focuses on areas outside of downtown Seattle, mainly in the south end of King County, but also in pocket areas southwest, East and north where multilingual communities live. In addition to these partnerships with communities and the facilitadoras, the program relies on social media and digital advertising to spread the word. Its Facebook page has almost 2,000 likes and regularly shares information in colorful videos and images. Its online presence is popular and Gerty explains this has been a successful platform for outreach because the Latinx community prefers social media engagement.
“From a strategic perspective we thought ‘who are our most vulnerable and least accessible communities who can’t access these services?’ so we have to go to them,” she said. “We develop outreach programs to meet the community where they are, in terms of their recycling and composting practices, but we still have a long way to go and a lot of multilingual/multicultural communities to reach.”
While the program’s success is due to the continued growth of this region and the equity and social justice ordinance King County has put in place, the fact that employees prioritize community needs and their work addressing these needs has also contributed to its success. It is a practice that Gerty takes pride in.
“King County employees know we have a diverse community to serve,” she said. “They know this is our community and we are directed to provide service so if we don’t do that, it is a deficit to our community.”
Gerty looks forward to passing on this meaningful work in recycling and environmental health to the next generation of King County leaders, and expanding the reach of culturally resonant programs like Recicla más. She sees the program as an opportunity to both educate communities, and highlight their role in King County’s work.
“In the program we are working to ensure that we have the resources to devote to a whole array of groups so we can teach multiple topics to those communities and help them gain experience in the research conservation world,” she said.
“It would be great for people to learn about this and maybe one day come to work for King County, making our workplace a more multicultural and welcoming place.”
The Recicla más program is also a great example of how King County applies the True North value “We are responsible stewards” to its work. Gerty and the Solid Waste Division are thoughtfully using resources and skills to make a deep impact on both the environment and the King County community. To learn more about the Recicla más program, visit www.kingcounty.gov/reciclamas.