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Free recycling ends Feb. 1: County to dump Cedar Falls recycling bins

North Bend resident Brian Mauhl drops off a load of cardboard at the Cedar Falls transfer station’s public recycling bins. Mauhl uses the facility roughly once per month, sometimes more, in addition to his home curbside bin. With a pending closure, he is among users who would forced to take his extra recyclables elsewhere. - Seth Truscott/Staff Photo
North Bend resident Brian Mauhl drops off a load of cardboard at the Cedar Falls transfer station’s public recycling bins. Mauhl uses the facility roughly once per month, sometimes more, in addition to his home curbside bin. With a pending closure, he is among users who would forced to take his extra recyclables elsewhere.
— image credit: Seth Truscott/Staff Photo

Recycling is easy, for most people in the area. Those blue bins for depositing plastic, glass, paper, and metal are part of the landscape, anywhere you'd find a trash can, and every commercial trash hauler in the county will pick up recycling right off your curb, if you ask them to.

For the rest of the people, recycling is not exactly hard—those who don't get curbside collection can still haul their recyclables to a collection site—but it is about to get harder.

King County will close its free recycling collection sites at most of its solid waste transfer stations on Wednesday, Feb. 1, including North Bend's Cedar Falls facility. Only three sites, Snoqualmie Pass, Vashon, and Skykomish will continue the service. Residents in all other areas of the county can subscribe to a recycling collection service, or drive the greater distance to the free recycling centers.

The change, announced on the website and on posters at transfer stations starting in December, should save the county about $400,000 annually, says Doug Williams, spokesperson for King County's Department of Natural Resources and Solid Waste Division.

The county does not have a recycling center, but contracts for services with private facilities, including ones owned by Allied Waste and Waste Management. In addition to the contracts, the county also must pay for transporting the materials from the transfer stations.

Meanwhile, 99 percent of county residents already have access to recycling collection services, according to the Frequently Asked Questions about the closure on King County's website (http://your.kingcounty.gov/solidwaste/facilities/cedar-transfer.asp?ID=347). Recycling collection will continue at the Snoqualmie Pass, Vashon and Skykomish transfer stations, since curbside recycling collection is not available to those residents.

"We're trying to eliminate a redundant service," Williams said. "Obviously we've been in tough budget straits for a while and a $400,000 reduction is fairly significant. It's a good-sized chunk of money that we're able absorb into the solid waste services."

As the King County Council went into the 2012 budget process in October, forecasts indicated a $20 million shortfall, the fourth consecutive year of lower-than-expected revenues. In November, the council approved a $5.2 billion budget, with a $655 million general fund balance. For 2011, the budget totaled $5.1 billion, with $621 million in the general fund, and for 2010, it was $5 billion, with $629 million in the general fund.

Recycling is still encouraged throughout the county, Williams said. King County has contracts with three companies, Allied Waste, Cleanscapes, and Waste Management, each of which is required to offer curbside recycling services.

"Our hope is that the 99 percent of folks with the ability to, do so sign up for the residential curbside recycling," he said. That hope was echoed by spokespeople for Allied Waste, which currently serves Snoqualmie, Fall City and parts of North Bend, and Waste Management, which serves Carnation, and will start service in Snoqualmie June 1.

"We hope people will sign up for service," said Anne Laughlin of Allied. "They've got other things to do with their time than go to the transfer station."

Allied and Waste Management each own and operate high-tech facilities to process recyclable materials within the county (Cleanscapes contracts with national recycler RockTenn, which has a presence in Renton), and each is committed to handling recyclable materials as a resource.

Robin Freedman, of Waste Management said, "As a company we used to invest in landfills, and in 2007, we took a hard look at the future, and made a very conscious decision to take the company in a different direction."

Now, Waste Management is building recycling facilities across the country, and positioning itself as not just a waste management facility, but also a materials management company,

Freedman said."We believe that waste is no longer waste and is a valuable resource."

Neither company's recycling center is open for public use, but King County lists Allied's Seattle facility, 2733 Third Ave. South, on its Alternative Recycling Options flyer, available at the Cedar Falls transfer station.

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