King County Solid Waste Division

In 1990, prompted by citizen demand, Washington State directed local governments to create plans to manage hazardous wastes produced by households and, in small quantities, by businesses and other organizations. In 1991, local governments and agencies established a partnership as the Local Hazardous Waste Management Program in King County to manage these wastes regionally.

The program brings together resources from four government agencies and 37 suburban cities to help citizens, businesses, non-profit organizations and government agencies reduce the threat posed by the production, use, storage and disposal of hazardous materials. The partners are the King County Water and Land Resources Division; King County Solid Waste Division; Seattle Public Utilities; Public Health—Seattle & King County; and the Suburban Cities Association.

Early on, the partners had supported what was then the Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corporation (RBRC), now Call2Recycle®, by directing citizens to the retail locations where RBRC had established collection boxes. About 10 years ago, the partners agreed that it would be more beneficial to all concerned—the agencies involved, the citizens, and local businesses—if the Waste Management Program worked directly with Call2Recycle to collect rechargeable batteries at the county’s hazardous waste collection facilities.

“It’s turned out to be a great partnership because of the ease of getting the batteries to Call2Recycle,” said Jim Neely, Program Manager Supervisor, King County Solid Waste Division. “Call2Recycle’s customer service is excellent; our account manager has come out here several times to meet with us to discuss how we can maintain and improve the program. That’s been the real key to the success—the direct involvement of Call2Recycle personnel.”

King County uses Call2Recycle’s box program. Through a contracting company called PFC, the batteries are sorted by chemistry as they are collected, individually bagged, and then sent back to Call2Recycle for processing and recycling.

King County has three primary household hazardous waste (HHW) collection locations as well as a roving “wastemobile” that collects at 22 locations throughout the year. The wastemobile primarily serves the homeowners in the area, while the HHW collection locations serve businesses that have small bulk quantities of batteries of which to dispose.

“The system Call2Recycle set up is very user-friendly; they send us collection boxes and all we have to do is unfold them, fill them up and then call UPS or FedEx to take them away,” said Neely. “Call2Recycle maintains all the data and provides it to us so we can evaluate the program’s success.”

Additionally, King County collects rechargeable batteries from municipal agencies and employees such as the police department and road crews. This is possible because of the overall ease-of-use of the program.

“Our local government employees run their own systems,” said Neely. “It’s so user-friendly. We can just disperse the collection boxes out to our county departments and they can run their own programs without a lot of centralized oversight, which saves time and money on planning, logistics, and execution of the programs.”

According to Neely, King County officials are comfortable working with Call2Recycle because they know that it’s an established program and that the hazardous materials are being managed safely and properly once they are out of the county’s hands.

“Call2Recycle has established environmentally sound methods for recovering the metals and hazardous materials that are in the batteries and they’re doing it with the support of the manufacturers. We strongly support the goal of product stewardship,” said Neely. “Also, they support the retail end of the collection spectrum so they are opening up as many opportunities as feasible for consumers to return their batteries, safely managed, with manufacturers taking care of them. “

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