Improving Commingled Recycling in WA photo identifier

Improving Commingled Recycling in WA


The results of the WA Commingled Improvement Project vary between the tangible and intangible. For many local government participants, simply meeting together with all stakeholders involved from curb to manufacturer greatly increased the awareness of what was happening to the materials they include in their curbside recycling programs.

Here are some quotes on the value of workgroup participation for the Southwest Region:

[The City of Tacoma] actively participated in the project and thought the process was extremely rewarding because of the diverse group working together to evaluate the facts and making recommendations at a regional level.

[Thurston County] found this process to be extremely eye-opening. While local governments were certainly aware of some problems, such as the affects of glass in commingled recycling, there were many other serious issues faced by the MRFs and manufacturers that few were aware of. ... There is great benefit in taking action at a regional level.

More than anything [for Kitsap County], this process has opened up the discussion of changes, internally. I think the [Southwest] BMPs will serve as a great tool to provide to commissioners and other decision makers as we consider changes.

Being a member of the workgroup has personally really helped me understand the issues and many different facets of recycling. I think it has also reaffirmed our decision to exclude glass for our curbside recycling program in Pierce County.

The reports have given me invaluable support for suggesting changes in the Clallam County recycling program.

The key reports and BMPs that resulted from the Southwest Region's work are: In terms of measurable changes, the following best management practices have been implemented in the Southwest Region as a result of this effort:
  • Pierce County, Mason County, City of Olympia, Thurston County, and City of Port Angeles:
    • Added plastic buckets and plant pots to their programs
    • Shifted to 'Yes only' outreach
    • Plastic tubs were added to Port Angeles' program
    • Shredded paper was de-emphasized in Olympia, Thurston and Port Angeles
  • City of Olympia and Thurston County are now aligned in program materials (except glass) - items were added and removed to address the best management practices.
  • Glass collected separately in Thurston County is now going back to glass, and a profit is actually being made off of the material.
  • Thurston County is using the Outreach BMP to educate Master Recyclers.
  • Pierce County is using the key messages in the Outreach BMP in their outreach (quick rinse message) and has received positive feedback from their MRF on the cleanliness of the material. Pierce has also found the FAQs in the Outreach BMP useful to keep a consistent message when residents ask why they can't recycle something.
  • Curbside quality cart inspections have occurred in Port Angeles and Auburn.
  • Clark County's accepted materials met the BMPs already, but they have been working to incorporate more of the Outreach BMPs including signage and direct feedback to customers.
  • Pierce County shared its newly designed outreach tool of accepted materials with Mason County, Pierce County, Clallam County and Jefferson County to increase consistency across the region.
  • To see visual changes in consistent outreach across the region: Southwest Implementation of BMPs 2013.