Trash changes could extend landfill’s life

February 23, 2010

By Warren Kagarise

The driver of a Waste Management garbage truck at Southeast Andrews Street and Fifth Avenue Southeast wheels a residential garbage bin to the dumping lift Feb. 18. By Greg Farrar

Trash could be hauled off less often for Issaquah residents, as city and county officials explore ways to increase recycling and cut the amount of garbage headed to the landfill south of Issaquah.

Jeff Gaisford, the recycling and environmental services manager for the King County Solid Waste Division, said the agency wants cities to switch to every-other-week garbage collection to cut costs for residents and reduce impact on Cedar Hills Regional Landfill. The landfill sprawls across 920 acres just south of city limits.

The changeover to less frequent garbage pickup could be eased through widespread recycling, like efforts to collect food waste separate from inorganic material. With food-scrap recycling service available to more than 90 percent of King County residents — including Issaquah citizens — the need for frequent trash pickup has declined, Gaisford said.

“Once folks are using that service, there’s much less need to have your garbage picked up every week, as you take out the stinky stuff,” he added.

City Resource Conservation Coordinator Micah Bonkowski said officials continue to weigh options for every-other-week garbage and recycling collection. Any changes to garbage collection schedules must be coordinated with Allied Waste and Waste Management, the trash haulers contracted by the city.

Gaisford credited residents, cities and the Solid Waste Division for increasing recycling efforts and lengthening the lifespan of the landfill. Agency officials changed operating hours at several solid waste transfer stations last month due to a declining amount of garbage.

“If we had not implemented the recycling that we have today, Cedar Hills would have closed in 2006,” he said.

Operations started at the landfill in 1965. Solid Waste Division officials continue to work on measures to keep the landfill open through 2024 by adding capacity without increasing the amount of land overtaken by the landfill. A final report on the environmental impact of the proposed expansion should be delivered within the first quarter of the year.

“We want to keep the landfill open as long as we can,” Gaisford said.

He said the agency wants to increase recycling of fluorescent light bulbs, carpet and phone books. Officials also seek uses for discarded asphalt shingles, for instance, to be used as a road paving material or as a product to sell to industry.

The agency also wants to set uniform collection standards, so residents know how, what and when to discard or recycle certain items.

“So that we can all move toward having a lot more in common with each other with the services that we provide,” Gaisford said. “As residents move from one city to the other, it’s often very different in terms of what is being collected and how it’s collected, but the standards will try to lay out ways to encourage more recycling.”

Meanwhile, Solid Waste Division officials will work throughout this year to update a comprehensive waste-management plan to outline how garbage and recycling will be handled in the decades ahead.

Gaisford and Bonkowski outlined proposed changes to the regional waste-handling network to the City Council last month. Although the presentation focused on the landfill, Gaisford updated officials on a plan to rebuild the Factoria Transfer Station, where workers sort and compact trash hauled from Issaquah. Officials want to open a new facility by 2015, though the plan hinges on the ability of the Solid Waste Division to shift Issaquah trash to other facilities during construction.

The new transfer station would incorporate more space for recycling, and workers would make use of “green” standards and technology in the construction. Gaisford said the county built most of the transfer stations in the 1960s, and the facilities and are not set up for modern-day trucks or recycling programs.

The transfer stations operate under the interlocal agreement Issaquah and 36 other cities negotiated with King County through 2028. The agreement forms the framework of the regional waste transfer network. Bonkowski said the regional network “makes it cheaper than each city running their own transfer and disposal facilities.”

Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or Comment at

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