Kirkland Makes Recycling an Event

Okay Kirklanders!  Give yourselves a big pat on the back for mEvent set up materials: signs, different containers, big traileraking our semiannual recycling collection events a success for 20 consecutive years!  Since 1994, Kirkland residents have brought everything from old appliances to worn tires to spent motor oil to, yes, even the kitchen sink to these events.  At our spring event held on Saturday, May 11th 2013, almost 1,000 residents (986 to be exact) brought 58 tons of reusable and recyclable material equal to about 118 pounds per person.

So to celebrate the 20th year of our events, I thought it would be a good time to share some of the behind-the-scenes background of the events and the astounding amount of material that Kirkland has reused and recycled since 1994.

First the numbers.

A lot of mattresses in the back of a cargo truck ready for recyclingSince 2004, 22,967 residents have hauled in 1,707 tons of difficult to recycle or reuse materials (3.4 million pounds!) which comes in at around 148 pounds per load.  While this pales in comparison, for example, to the 13,000 tons of recyclables collected from our residents, businesses, and schools just in 2012 alone, it’s still significant and reflects our community’s strong ethic to be responsible stewards of our environment.  Simply having the foresight and patience to set aside the time on a Saturday of the event to load up a mattress, a batch of oversized cardboard, a couple boxes of paper for shredding, and a few of those pesky fluorescent tubes instead of hauling them to the dump (aka the Houghton Transfer Station) speak volumes of our residents’ environmental principles.

Now for some background.

Since their inception, our collection events have been managed by Olympic Environmental Resources (OER), a consulting firm out of Seattle that provides similar services for a number of other cities in King County.  OER coordinates and hires the recycling vendors, prints and mails the promotional flyer that you receive in the mail, and provides staff to ensure that A lineup of cars at the very successful recycling eventthere are no traffic jams on the day of the event.  Each January, we sit down to pick the event days making sure that they don’t conflict with other special events going on the same day (such as a UW Husky game) or a religious holiday.  We then coordinate proposed date of the events with our friends in the administration at Lake Washington High School to ensure there are no conflicts with school events that would take precedence.

In terms of cost, each event costs around $25,000 to put on.  Kirkland receives funding from two grant sources to cover the costs of event management and to compensate vendors.  The Local Hazardous Waste Management Program (LHWMP) Grant provides funding to collect and process moderate risk household hazardous waste such as motor oil, antifreeze, and lead acid batteries where the King County Waste Reduction and Recycling (WRR) Grant funds the collection of everything else, including the kitchen sink.  Funding for the LHWMP comes from the $1.08 hazardous waste fee that you see on your garbage bill while the funding for the WRR grant is derived from the $121.17/ton we pay to dispose of garbage through the King County-operated transfer station system.

One question that we frequently receive concerns whether or not the items we collect are actually reused or recycled.  The answer is a definitive YES!  The vendors under contract to collect materials at the event are reputable and recycle or process the materials responsibly.  A second question that we get is whether you have to live in Kirkland to come to our event.  Our events are open to all residents of King County and the more the merrier!

Over the years, the items accepted at the events have evolved as public demand has pointed us in different directions.  Most recently in 2011, we began receiving requests to add mattresses and Styrofoam™ to the accepted list since these items are difficult to recycle and take up a huge amount of space in the landfill.  As compact fluorescent bulbs (CFL) began to supplant incandescent bulbs in the marketplace, we added the collection of spent CFL bulbs and tubes to ensure that our residents have the opportunity to properly recycle these dangerous, mercury-containing lights.  We have also stopped collecting some items like televisions, computers, and computer monitors as product stewardship programs such as the E-Cycle Washington Program came on-line in 2009.

If you have an item that you would like us to add to the list, let us know!