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See the Mole in action!
Digitized film, made public for the first time in 50 years!

King County has a history of tackling environmental concerns since before the first Earth Day in 1970. In 1966, the county established the Cedar Hills Regional Landfill about 20 miles southeast of Seattle, a facility that would become a model of converting waste to renewable natural gas.

Today, the landfill serves close to 70% of King County residents, transforming garbage into pipeline-quality biogas – enough produced on average to provide natural gas to over 19,000 homes. Environmental monitoring at the landfill controls gas and leachate, protecting groundwater and air quality.1

Left: 1988 aerial photograph of the Cedar Hills Regional Landfill.
King County Archives Series 441, Department of Natural Resources and Parks, Solid Waste: Landfill and Transfer Station Aerial Photos, #302.

Cedar Hills was also the site of the late 1960s demonstration (funded by a grant from the U.S. Public Health Service) of “The Mole,” a 150-ton experimental trash compactor that buried garbage as it crawled across the landfill.

Though the locally designed machine was found to be ineffective in the soil of Cedar Hills, it represented an early attempt by King County Solid Waste to efficiently maximize county landfills and minimize the need for expansion.

With federal funding, Public Works produced the 1966 film “Waste Away,” which highlights the County’s innovations in landfill design and the Mole demonstration project. The film reportedly was seen “on local and coast-to-coast television as well as being seen in college and high school classes, and by governmental, scientific, industrial, and citizen organizations throughout the country.”2

Light-hearted and entertaining, "Waste Away" captures a time when public awareness was just beginning to form around the problem of garbage in a consumer society. (Watch the digitized version via streaming below.)

1022013 Above, tour of the Cedar Hills Regional Landfill and demonstration of the Mole, ca. 1966
King County Archives Series 400, Department of Transportation, Road Services: Photograph and Moving Image Files, Box 54, #1022, ref ID 400.120.22.

Digitized copy of VHS transfer of original 16mm film produced in 1966 by Carmon Film Productions, with the King County Department of Public Works Sanitary Operations Division, the Bureau of Solid Waste Management, and the United States Department of Health, Education and Welfare. Original title: Waste Away.




Above, stills from "Waste Away"

Star Wars?!

Unsubstantiated rumors persist that when the Mole was sold at auction in the early 1970s, it was purchased by George Lucas’s film company and served as the inspiration for the immense sandcrawlers of the Tatooine desert in the original Star Wars film.

Rumor or true story?
You be the judge!

The Mole
King County Archives Series 400, Department of Transportation, Road Services: Photograph and Moving Image Files, Box 57, #1316, ref ID 400.123.70.

Tatooine Sandcrawler from Star Wars
Image courtesy of Wookieepedia: The Star Wars Wiki.

Celebrate Earth Day 2016

Earth Day 2016 is on Friday, April 22. King County is holding many events throughout the month of April to celebrate our planet and where you can learn more about King County’s environmental initiatives.

The award-winning Cedar Hills Regional Landfill is commemorating its 50th anniversary on Saturday, April 23, 2016 (RSVP required).

1. “Cedar Hills Regional Landfill” and fact sheet, King County Solid Waste Division,, accessed 21 Apr 2016.
2. Jean L. DeSpain to The Times Troubleshooter, 18 May 1970, Road Services Division Map and Records Center, content ID 41330, Public Works, Solid Waste.
3. “Sandcrawler,” Wookieepedia: The Star Wars Wiki,, accessed 21 Apr 2016.

TTY Relay 711

Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday: 9 am-4 pm

Please note the Archives is closed Wednesdays.