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Each year, residents and businesses in King County throw away over 800,000 tons of garbage. What are people disposing, where does this waste come from and where does it go? Since 1990, SWD has conducted its Waste Monitoring Program to answer these questions and learn more about the disposed waste. The Waste Monitoring Program includes waste characterization studies, customer surveys, market analyses and other studies, as needed, to help King County provide efficient and effective services, plan for future needs and track progress towards county recycling goals.

Waste characterization studies

Waste characterization studies are conducted to analyze the waste stream through the collection and sorting of samples of loads from customers who bring materials to transfer stations and drop boxes in King County. These studies help the county understand both the overall waste stream and its subsets, such as the materials disposed from single-family homes, apartments, businesses and those who haul their own waste. Studying the disposed items also helps in identifying and targeting specific materials, such as food waste and other organics, for potential future efforts to increase recycling. These waste studies are scheduled to occur every five years.

Customer surveys

Customer surveys of drivers bringing loads to waste facilities are used to track the types of vehicles and customers using the sites and ask questions regarding the type of waste and its origins. These surveys help the county understand its customers and provide effective service. These customer surveys are scheduled to occur every five years, coinciding with the waste characterization studies.

Customer satisfaction surveys

Customer satisfaction surveys provide information on the level of customer satisfaction with the customer service, waste services and the facilities of the ten county-owned transfer stations and drop boxes. The first customer satisfaction survey was conducted in 1998 and repeated in 2000 and 2002. The county uses this survey information to monitor its performance and assist in identifying areas where improvements can be made. These customer satisfaction surveys are scheduled to occur every two years.

Market studies

Market studies of targeted materials are conducted to assess current and future markets for recyclable materials. Market studies are conducted every five years and are designed to answer the following questions:

  • What are the market conditions and dynamics for each targeted material?
  • What is or will be the likely impact of these markets on local recycling programs?
  • What can or should King County or the public sector in Puget Sound be doing to strengthen these markets?

Materials Recovery Facility Assessment: Recyclables Characterization (2019)

This document Download PDF 2.5 MB describes the methods and findings of the recycling assessment of regional Material Recovery Facilities (MRFs) conducted by Cascadia Consulting Group in 2019 on behalf of the King County Solid Waste Division.

This assessment includes two components: 1) a characterization study of   recyclable materials generated in King County and processed by regional recycling facilities and 2) interviews with representatives from the three major single-stream recycling collection and processing companies that handle materials from curbside recycling programs in King County.

The following three main areas are covered in the report:

  • Characterize the inbound recyclable material collected from commercial and single-family residential sectors across King County (not including those from the City of Seattle).
  • Quantify the rejected material disposed by the participating facilities.
  • Characterize the throughput (commodity materials or finished products) processed by the MRFs and assess the level of contamination in these commodities.

2006 material recovery facility (mrf) assessment

This assessmentDownload PDF , 384 K quantifies and characterizes the commingled material delivered to four Puget Sound Area MRF's from residential and commercial sources, as well as the material that comes out of the MRF's as product or as residual. The report reveals the amounts and types of contaminants in incoming materials, outgoing products as well as potentially valuable recyclables that are lost to recycling markets. The report assess the performance of these MRF's and documents actual market driven specifications for recycled products. The assessment provides a series of consultant recommendations to improve MRF performance. These recommendations are not currently endorsed or approved by the King County Solid Waste Division but serve as a starting point in which to discuss recycling policy as part of the 2001 Comprehensive Sold Waste Management Plan Update.

Waste reduction and recycling residential telephone surveys

Waste reduction and recycling residential telephone surveys are conducted to determine the level of knowledge and the attitudes of residents with regard to the recycling programs that are offered by the SWD. These surveys are conducted every other year.

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 Call: 206-477-4466

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King County Solid Waste Division mission: Waste Prevention, Resource Recovery, Waste Disposal