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The big purge - Tons of waste collected as King County cities bring collection events back

Orange road sign that reads "special recycling collection event"

In just six hours, the City of SeaTac collected 95,972 pounds of material during a recent collection and recycling event for residents. Over 10,000 pounds of collected materials included hazardous materials such as batteries, oil, antifreeze, and compact fluorescent light bulbs. These items would have harmed people and the environment if they had ended up in the trash.   

At the City of Carnation’s June event, 722 vehicles lined up to dispose of waste, compared to 348 last year. Attendees at the June event dropped off more than 13,000 batteries. In Covington, 2,456 participants showed up for their August event – 1,115 more people than last year! And in Kent, in March and June, residents safely disposed of 33 percent more batteries than last year.   

These are just a few recent examples of how King County residents are showing up in droves at collection and recycling events hosted by cities and tribes this season. These people are participating in what is becoming known as "the purge," where people staying home due to the pandemic are turning their focus on clearing out their homes and getting rid of things they no longer need.   

Hazardous Waste Management Program (Haz Waste Program) provides grant funding to cities, towns, and tribal governments within King County to help more residents properly dispose of hazardous waste. Many cities across the county report record numbers of people coming through to drop off unwanted clothing and household items, old appliances, recyclable materials such as cardboard and electronic items, and household hazardous waste. In June alone, King County residents got rid of 12 tons of household hazardous waste at local city and tribal collection events.

“People are masking up, coming out, and off-loading their used batteries and other hazardous items that don’t belong in the trash. In a short time, we are catching up on tonnage from last year,” said Haz Waste Program Government Relations Manager Joy Carpine-Cazzanti. “A number of King County cities have had record numbers of visitors at their events this summer after events were canceled this spring due to COVID-19.”  

The recycle and collection event season got off to a slow start this year due to the pandemic. Eighteen spring events were postponed or canceled due to Washington State's social distancing orders. Haz Waste Program and Seattle-King County Public Health worked with local cities and tribes to develop a plan to enable the events to return this summer with additional safety guidelines around COVID-19. 

The Haz Waste Program continues to support city and tribal collection events with resources like outreach materials and updates to jurisdictions about requirements around social distancing. We host a quarterly workgroup meeting for city and tribal staff to share policy, service information, and other resources that support area recycling and collection events.   

Have you joined "the purge?" Visit our events page to learn about collection events near you! 

Image credit: City of SeaTac

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