Love of the outdoors is part of our culture here in Seattle. Lush forests, snow-capped peaks, and sparkling waters make the Pacific Northwest a fantastic place to live and play. To help reduce the need for landfills and prevent pollution, make sure you know what goes in your home recycling and yard waste bins by reviewing this guide.kids recycling in seattle

You may be surprised by how many items can be recycled in King County. Appliances, computers, TVs, batteries, light bulbs, and even old clothes and bedding can all be diverted from landfills. Many of these items are not accepted in curbside bins and must be disposed of at hazardous waste sites or through vendors that will refurbish or recycle them properly.

If you’ve been wondering what to do with your unwanted stuff, we’ve got answers here.

The Basics

The City of Seattle recycles about 60% of its garbage and aims to recycle 70% by 2025. To help reduce the need for landfills and prevent pollution, make sure you know what goes in your home recycling and yard waste bins by reviewing this quick guide for King County.

Yard waste, including food scraps and food-soiled paper, is recycled locally into compost, a valuable resource used by local parks and home gardeners. In fact, city and county laws prohibit yard waste from being disposed of in curbside garbage bins. For tips on composting and reducing food waste in King County, click here.

For a comprehensive list of hazardous materials and how to dispose of them (everything from pesticides to nail polish) visit the website for King County’s Hazardous Waste Management Program.

Appliances

Most major appliances can be recycled or reused. Some, such as refrigerators, freezers, and air conditioners, contain chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), which means they must be handled properly to ensure that CFCs and other refrigerants are not released into the atmosphere.

Older and nonworking major appliances can be dropped off at county recycling stations. Companies like Total Reclaim and 1 Green Planet will accept appliances in any condition via pick-up or drop-off. Newer, working appliances may be donated to charities like Habitat for Humanity or St. Vincent de Paul, or try giving them away via a Freecycle group or Craigslist.

For a complete list of vendors that take appliances, visit the King County website or use this search tool to find a hazardous waste disposal site near you.

Batteries

Batteries contain toxic chemicals that can leach into the environment, contaminate soil and water, and accumulate in wildlife and humans. While tossing a handful of batteries in the trash may not seem like a big deal, it adds up: around 180,000 tons of batteries are discarded in the U.S. every year. In King County there are plenty of options for throwing out used-up batteries so they won’t harm the environment—or us.ewaste

  • Household batteries, including alkaline, button, rechargeable, and motor vehicle batteries, are accepted at hazardous waste collection facilities around King County. Use this search tool to find the one nearest you, or check the Wastemobile schedule for convenient disposal in your community.
  • Rechargeable batteries (look for the symbol on the battery) can be recycled at retail locations that participate in the Call2Recycle program, such as Staples, Radio Shack, Best Buy, and Maple Leaf Ace Hardware. Visit the Call2Recycle website for a list of Seattle-area locations.
  • Motor vehicle batteries, also known as lead-acid batteries, must be disposed of at special facilities. In Washington State, retail locations that sell vehicle batteries are required to also accept used vehicle batteries for recycling. Visit your local auto-parts dealer or search for vendors on the King County website.
  • UPS (uninterruptible power supply) batteries, also known as battery backups, are devices that keep computers running for a short period of time after a power failure. These devices usually contain lead-acid batteries. Some locations that recycle vehicle batteries also recycle UPS batteries, as do companies like 3RTechnology and Friendly Earth. For a complete list, click here.

Confidential Documents

Are there piles of ancient bank statements, tax forms, or checkbooks cluttering up your closet? Some businesses, such as FedEx and the UPS Store, will shred and recycle these for a small fee (typically around 99 cents per pound). The process is totally secure and can save you time if you have a large amount of paper to shred. See a list of other vendors on the King County websiterecycle tax documents

Because Seattle Credit Union recognizes the importance of document security and disposal, we host free Shred Day events each year at some of our branches. These events invite community members to have their sensitive documents securely and professionally shredded and recycled for free.

Electronics

E-Cycle Washington is a free program that provides responsible recycling of TVs, computers, monitors, tablets, e-book readers, and portable DVD players. More than 378 million pounds of materials have been recycled through the program since 2009. View a list of vendors that accept electronics here, or use the Department of Ecology’s search tool to find a location near you.

Best Buy, Staples, and 3RTechnology accept all of the above electronics, as well as keyboards, printers, toner cartridges, speakers, mobile phones, CDs, and more. Staples offers a trade-in value for certain items.

If you have a PC that could be refurbished, consider taking it to a Microsoft Registered Refurbisher for a new lease on life. Find a refurbisher near you on the Microsoft website.

Ferrous Metals

Bicycles, water heaters, lawn mowers, wood-burning stoves, and pipes are just a few of the items that are often made of ferrous metals, which means they contain iron or steel. Some King County recycling & transfer stations accept ferrous metals (check listings for details). Small quantities can also be dropped off at vendors like West Seattle Recycling, Inc. and 1 Green Planet. For larger quantities, try a haul-away service like Busby Junk Removal. These vendors and more can be found on the King County website.

Light bulbs

Incandescent light bulbs can’t be recycled and should be disposed of in the garbage. But many fluorescent light bulbs and tubes, including CFLs (compact fluorescent bulbs), contain levels of mercury and lead that make them dangerous waste. King County no longer accepts fluorescent bulbs and tubes in the garbage and recommends recycling them through the Take it Back Network.

Bartell Drugs, Ikea, Home Depot, Lowe’s, and PC Recycle and Repair all accept CFLs for recycling. Most King County recycling & transfer stations will also take fluorescent bulbs and tubes.

Mattresses

Mattresses take up a lot of space in landfills. In fact, 30 million are sent to landfills every year in the U.S. Although 90% of the materials in a mattress can be recycled, the process is costly because each mattress must be disassembled by hand.

Most mattress retailers will haul away your old mattress when you buy a new one, but whether that mattress ends up in a landfill or in a recycling facility depends on the retailer, so be sure to ask. 

Spring Back Mattress Recycling NW in Tacoma charges just $10 for drop-off of each mattress or box spring and $20 for pickup within a 15-mile radius. Rubbish Works and A Plus Removal and Recycling will pick up your old mattress for recycling, but fees are considerably higher. Charities like St. Vincent de Paul, Goodwill, and the YWCA’s Sharehouse accept mattresses in reusable condition.

Motor Oil

Petroleum products such as motor oil are not accepted at King County transfer stations in any quantity. Motor oil containers and filters must be emptied completely before being put in the garbage.

Used motor oil, filters, antifreeze and other automotive fluids should be disposed of at household hazardous waste facilities or other motor oil recycling stations, such as auto repair shops, auto supply stores, and gas stations that sell oil and other fluids. To find a recycling station near you, check this list on King County’s Hazardous Waste Management website.

Paint

Illegally dumping liquid latex paint down drains can create environmental hazards and overload sewage treatment plants. If you can’t use up or give away your extra latex paint or stain, dry it out and put it in the garbage with the lid off. Watch a video on how to harden latex paint

Oil-based paints, varnishes, lacquers, paint thinners, and strippers must be disposed of at a household hazardous waste facility.

Textiles

Most people know that wearable used clothing can be donated to charitable organizations, but did you know that ripped, stained, and otherwise unwearable clothes can be recycled? More than 4 million tons of clothing, bedding, and rugs are discarded every year in the U.S., and charitable organizations currently collect only about 25% of that total.recycle clothing

To keep these materials out of landfills, King County has partnered with Northwest Center, a local nonprofit, to offer textile recycling at the Bow Lake, Cedar Falls, Enumclaw, Houghton, Renton, Shoreline and Vashon transfer stations. Textiles in any condition are accepted, except those that are wet, mildewed, or infested with moths or bedbugs. Those same textiles can be dropped off at Goodwill, Value Village, and other locations. See a complete list here or find out more about King County’s Threadcycle program.

Medicine

It probably won't surprise you that flushing your leftover medication down the toilet or throwing it way in the garbage is not the best choice. Chemicals that end up in our wastewater can find their way into our rivers and streams where they can cause problems for wildlife and vegetation. Pharmaceuticals that get tossed into the trash can leach into our soils and eventually end up in our drinking water. 

You have several options to properly dispose of medicines and other drugs. You can take them to local police department and some pharmacies that will destroy the pills using high temperature incineration, which the Washington State Department of Ecology currently considers the best way to properly dispose of these types of chemicals. 

Visit takebackyourmeds.org to learn more about how to dispose of all types of medical and pharmaceutical waste and to find qualified organizations that will take your unwanted pills and medicine.