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Vashon yard and food waste recycling: Regular feature after successful pilot project

Summary

Yard and food waste recycling is now a regular feature at the Vashon Recycling and Transfer Station, following a successful one-year pilot project when residents brought 584 tons of compostable materials separated from garbage to the King County Solid Waste Division facility.

Story

Following a successful one-year pilot project when Vashon-Maury Island residents diverted more than 580 tons of yard and food waste from the landfill and toward a new life as compost, the King County Solid Waste Division is making yard and food waste recycling a regular feature at the Vashon Recycling and Transfer Station.

Division employees partnered with the nonprofit Zero Waste Vashon to promote the program through signage, press releases, brochures, local newspaper advertisements, posters, and mailings.  

During the one-year pilot program from October 2015 through September 2016, Vashon Recycling and Transfer Station customers brought 584 tons of yard and food waste separated from garbage to the facility. The materials are transported to Cedar Grove Composting, Inc. in Maple Valley to be composted. 

Fees charged for yard and food waste are lower than garbage fees. Customers are charged a minimum fee of $12 which covers up to 320 pounds. For heavier loads, customers are charged a $75 per ton fee.

Compared to yard waste collected at the division’s other rural facilities, the annual quantity of yard waste collected at the Vashon facility is nearly 200 tons greater than the quantities collected at the Cedar Falls Drop Box and nearly as high as the tons collected at Enumclaw Recycling and Transfer Station. 

During the year-long pilot program, 2,682 customer yard and food waste transactions were recorded at the Vashon facility scale house. According to waste characterization studies conducted during the pilot, the vast majority of compostable material consisted of yard waste and very little food waste was collected.

Yard and food waste accepted by the Vashon facility are:

• Yard waste - branches, brush, twigs, grass clippings, leaves, weeds, and holiday trees.
• Food waste - breads, pastas, fruit and vegetable scraps, fish, meat, poultry, bones, cheese, yogurt, egg shells, nutshells, coffee grounds, paper coffee filters, tea bags and tea leaves.

Materials that cannot be included with yard and food waste – and that should be disposed with garbage – are:

• Rocks, sod, soil, pet waste;
• Glass, metal, plastic, plastic bags;
• Compostable utensils; and
• Food-soiled paper products such as pizza boxes, take-out containers, and paper plates, napkins or towels.

Food waste can be collected in small kitchen countertop containers that have a compostable bag liner approved by Cedar Grove Composting. Approved bag liners are sold by these Vashon retailers: ACE Hardware, Island Home Center, Thriftway, and Vashon IGA.  Food waste also can be collected in paper grocery bags and the bag can be placed along with the food waste in the yard and food waste collection area at the Vashon facility.

Over the next several years, to maximize efficiency and reduce transportation costs for the compostable materials, the division will consider improvements such as a stationary compactor.

Impact Bioenergy received a grant from King County Solid Waste Division in August 2016 to study alternatives to transporting Vashon yard and food waste off-island. In addition, the division is conducting a King County system-wide anaerobic digestion feasibility study to learn more about how this technology might play a role in supporting current county organics recycling efforts.

For more information about the Vashon yard and food waste program, visit 
https://your.kingcounty.gov/solidwaste/facilities/documents/Vashon-food-yard-brochure.pdf.  For information about recyclable materials accepted at Vashon Recycling and Transfer Station, visit https://your.kingcounty.gov/solidwaste/facilities/vashon-transfer.asp?ID=344. Contact Dale Alekel at dale.alekel@kingcounty.gov or 206-477-5267 with questions about Vashon Recycling and Transfer Station.