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Zero Waste

Zero Waste of Resources is an idea that is catching on throughout the country. King County adopted a policy to work toward Zero Waste by 2030, meaning that materials of value, whether for reuse, resale, or recycling, won't be put in the garbage and end up in the landfill.

Studies done at the Cedar Hills Regional Landfill show that 75% of the "stuff" we throw away each year isn't really waste. The majority of these items could be recycled, composted, or reused.

As a planning tool for solid waste management, the county is interested in keeping paper, wood, scrap metal, glass, plastic and food out of the landfill. When those items don't go in, there is room for real garbage, that is, materials that currently have no other use.

Zero Waste of Resources does not mean zero garbage! There will always be some garbage that needs to be managed, but with an effort to develop the Zero Waste of Resources 2030 policy, these items will be recycled or reused.

Why is Zero Waste important?

Our consumption and disposal practices have a cumulative impact on the health of the planet. In King County over 800,000 tons of garbage is handled each year. Keeping materials with reuse or recycling value out of the landfill allows room for "true" garbage and allows the landfill to function longer. Reaching for a Zero Waste of Resources future is the responsible thing to do in the face of limited natural resources, ever expanding population growth and economic potential with remanufacture

What is a wasted resource?

A wasted resource is something thrown away that could have been used again either in its original form (like a chair, article of clothing, toy or book) or remanufactured into new product (like a newspaper, a cardboard box, a bottle, a fleece blanket or jacket, an aluminum can, plastic lumber, or a soil amendment like compost).

Innovation and technology create new products all the time with products we are done with. Even old CDs and DVDs can be made into such things as building insulation, packaging foam and coat hangers! Remember the old saying "one man's trash is another's treasure."

Examples of Zero Waste Activities


Electronics and Fluorescents
In October of 2005, fluorescent light bulbs and tubes, and computers, monitors, TVs and cell hones were no longer accepted in the garbage or at the King County Transfer Stations. Instead, consumers now find how to recycle these products through the Take it Back Network recyclers. Take it Back Network recyclers accept fluorescent bulbs and tubes and a variety of electronic equipment such as computers, monitors, printers, TVs, cell phones, PDAs, fax machines, stereos, DVD and VCR players, other household electronics and rechargeable batteries. These recyclers are required to recycle the products domestically in an environmentally sound manner. Take it Back Network members charge a fee for their recycling services. Learn more about these programs in the Take it Back Network brochure (PDF, 173 K).

Food scraps
Did you know that almost 30% of the waste that goes to the landfill is made up of food scrapsand food-soiled paper? By mid-year 2008, 85% of residents in King County who subscribe to curbside yard waste collection will also be able to add in their food scraps from meal preparation, table scraps, greasy pizza boxes, spoiled food and many other kinds of organic materials. The food scraps along with yard waste are composted locally and made into a soil amendment for gardens in King County. This program alone will make a huge contribution to Zero Waste of Resources as people become more familiar with the importance of creating "zero waste."

How can you help?

Rethink and reduce your purchases and practices, reuse materials recycle the things that are recyclable.
Sign up for curbside recycling and yard waste collection
Become a Master Composter Recycler
Teach your kids about waste reduction and recycling
Learn what's currently in the garbage, calculate how much waste you generate, Take a fun garbage and recycling quiz.

What Happens to Recyclables?

See What Happens to Your Recyclables in this 10 minute video. Please choose your preferred video format:

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Updated: Jul. 12, 2012


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