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King County, Zero Waste Vashon partners in yard and food waste pilot program


The King County Solid Waste Division and Zero Waste Vashon are finding practical ways to recycle Vashon’s solid waste into useful products.


Working together, the County and the nonprofit organization of Vashon Island neighbors are implementing a unique, one-year yard and food waste pilot program at Vashon Recycling and Transfer Station (VRTS).

Starting Oct. 5, Vashon businesses and residents can deliver yard and food waste, separated from garbage and recyclable materials, to a designated area at VRTS for a reduced rate.

During the pilot program, yard and food waste will be transported to Cedar Grove Composting, Inc. in Maple Valley to be composted. Throughout 2016, to help determine the feasibility of future processing of yard and food waste on Vashon instead of transporting them off island, King County Solid Waste Division will track quantities and characterize types of yard and food waste dropped off at VRTS.
Yard waste includes leaves, grass clippings, weeds, brush, and branches. Branches must be less than 8 feet long and no more than 4 inches in diameter. No soil, sod, rocks, or plastic bags will be accepted with yard waste.

Food waste includes fruit and vegetable scraps, egg shells, bread, pasta, other grains, coffee grounds, paper coffee filters, tea bags, dairy products (cheeses, yogurt), meat, fish, poultry, bones, and table scraps.

Food waste can be collected in a small kitchen countertop container with a compostable bag liner approved by Cedar Grove Composting. Approved bag liners are sold on Vashon at ACE Hardware, Island Home Center, Thriftway, and Vashon IGA.

No glass, metal, plastic, liquids, compostable utensils, or food-soiled paper products such as paper napkins, paper towels, paper plates, pizza boxes, and take-out containers will be accepted with yard and food waste. Yard and food waste mixed with garbage or recyclable materials will be disposed as garbage and charged at the garbage fee.

Fees for yard and food waste will be lower than the garbage fees: The minimum fee for yard and food waste will be $12 per entry (which covers up to 320 pounds) or $75 per ton, versus garbage disposal fees of $22 per entry minimum or $129.40 per ton. These are the same fees paid for yard waste at other King County recycling and transfer stations. The pilot program will help King County determine costs to provide this service beyond the one-year pilot program.

It is estimated that 78 percent of what is disposed at King County’s Cedar Hills Regional Landfill could be reused, recycled, or composted, and a similar estimate is assumed for the garbage transported from Vashon. Yard and food waste can be turned into compost – a valuable soil amendment good for plants and water quality – or potentially into a source of clean energy such as fuel or electricity.

Currently, composting infrastructure for yard and food waste does not exist on Vashon Island, where uses of these materials, including composting on the island, could eliminate hauling yard and food waste off the island.

Another recent change at VRTS was installation of two compactors to reduce trips from Vashon to a Seattle recycling facility. Benefits of the compactors include decreased carbon emissions and reduced costs, thanks to the increased volume of recyclable materials hauled in each truck load. Cardboard, paper, glass bottles and jars, aluminum and tin cans, and plastic containers can all be placed in the compactors. 

Other materials accepted at VRTS in separate containers are scrap metals, textiles, mercury-containing light bulbs and tubes, and major appliances separated into refrigerant and non-refrigerant appliances.

“Recycling services at King County’s recycling and transfer stations, including the Vashon facility, support our goal of increasing the County’s recycling rate from the current 53 percent to 70 percent,” said Pat McLaughlin, director of the King County Solid Waste Division.
To learn more, visit the VRTS website,, or call the King County Solid Waste Division at 206-477-4466.

For more information about the Yard and Food Waste Pilot Program, contact Dale Alekel, King County Solid Waste Division, at or 206-477-5267. For more information about Zero Waste Vashon, visit