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Some of the answers on this page are specifically related to Waste Management's policies in Burien. If you live outside of the City Limits or have another vendor, check to see if their rules are different.

1 Why do I have to sort my recycling?
2 What happens if I put the wrong things in my recycle bin?
3 What types of plastics can I recycle in my All-In-One Recycle bin?
4 Can I throw bags full of items in my recycle bin?
5 How do I recycle fluorescent lights, thermostats and other mercury containing items?
6 What can I do with shredded paper?
7 What else can I put in my Yard Waste recycling bin?
8 Can I recycle Styrofoam?
9 Where can I recycle electronics, and is it really free?
10 Where can I recycle used rechargeable batteries?
11 What about regular alkaline batteries, can they be recycled?
12 What should I do with old medication [prescription and over the counter]?
13 Is there any way to stop getting all those Yellow Pages Phone Books every year?
14 I signed up, how come I'm not getting any emails from you?
15 If I want to haul my own recycling where can I take it?
16 Where can I find out about rebates, tax breaks and subsidies for energy saving products and projects?
17 Where I can I get information about building a Raingarden?

1. Why do I have to sort my recycling? Back to the Top

The first reason for sorting the recycling is that not everything can be recycled. Window glass, plastic bottle caps and lids are good examples. Items containing mixed material [plastic tubs with plastic film that can't be removed, cardboard boxes that are dirty or greasy) also can't be recycled. Second, different material is processed differently and often at different locations. Yard waste isn't processed with cans and bottles for example, so they need to go in different bins.

Waste Management has a page with lots of information about their Cascade Recycling Center, including a video of the sorting process and a slide show about the Story of Recycling.
2. What happens if I put the wrong things in my recycle bin? Back to the Top
At best someone at a sorting facility will spot wrong or non-recyclable items, pull them out and either send them to the right facility or throw them away. But that increases the cost of processing the material. At worst it will contaminate the whole batch turning lots of good recyclable material into garbage. Shredded paper is a good example of this because it's so difficult to remove it from other items, it's cheaper to throw out the whole batch. It's actually better to throw a few recyclable items in the garbage than to throw garbage in the recycling.

If in doubt, throw it out.
3. What types of plastics can I recycle in my All-In-One Recycle bin? Back to the Top

Not all plastics are created equal, not even when they have the same number on them. While all number 1 plastic [for instance] starts with the same type of resin it can change due to different manufacturing processes, which changes it irreversibly. The final products can't be reused in the same way. So ignore the numbers and make the decision by what the product is. According to the Waste Management page you may recycle:

Only plastic bottles and jugs (with necks) and dairy tubs in curbside recycling. To avoid confusion and contamination, ignore the numbers and remember: Put only clean plastic bottles, jugs and dairy tubs in your curbside recycling container. If it isn't a bottle, jug, or dairy tub, and it canít be reused, it goes in the garbage.

Please remove all caps and lids from plastic and glass containers. They are not recyclable.

If in doubt, throw it out.

That means for instance that the plastic containers from the Deli, plastic frozen dinner trays and microwavable plastic containers all go in the garbage. And while we're at it, the rules have changed; polycoated paper like milk cartons, coated cups, plates or food containers can not be recycled or composted.

4. Can I throw bags full of items in my recycle bin? Back to the Top
Please empty out bags and boxes and put items loose into the bins. Since the bins contain mixed items they need to be sorted once they get to the recycling facility, Having everything loose means that it's easier to sort.
5. How do I recycle fluorescent lights, thermostats and other mercury containing items? Back to the Top
Because fluorescent lights, thermostats, older thermometers, some small batteries and some other items contain small amounts of mercury they need to be recycled. CFLs (Compact Fluorescent Lights) can be recycled for free at a number of places. In Burien they can be dropped off at Bartells, the Parks Department/Community Center, and in the lobby at City Hall. Fluorescent tubes need to be taken to drop off points like McLendons or Home Depot, which will probably charge a small fee, but that's starting to change. For other items you can check this Waste Management page or look them up on this King County page or on this Take It Back Network page. With a little research you can find a convenient location at a minimal cost.
6. What can I do with shredded paper? Back to the Top
The fibers in shredded paper (especially with cross-cut shredding) are very short and are not practical for making into new paper products. They also tend to stick to everything else that's in the bin with them so that a load of bottles and cans may be turned into garbage because it's too hard to separate everything. The only way to currently recycle shredded paper is in your Yard Waste bin. Layer it in with other items to make it easier to break down in the composting process.
7. What else can I put in my Yard Waste recycling bin? Back to the Top
Yard Waste includes grass clippings, leaves, small plants and branches smaller than 4 feet long and 4 inches in diameter. According to this Waste Management food scraps page you can also include most food including meat, fish and chicken, dairy products, fruit, vegetables, bread, pasta, grains, egg shells, nut shells, coffee grounds, paper filters and tea bags. Also most food soiled paper products including greasy pizza boxes, paper plates and cups, paper towels and napkins, and paper food wrap.

Do NOT put polycoated paper like milk cartons, coated cups, plates or food containers, plastic of any kind, grease, oil, pet waste or Styrofoam in the yard waste bin.
8. Can I recycle Styrofoam? Back to the Top
You can now recycle most types of Styrofoam at Styrorecycle in Renton, just west of Ikea. There is no charge for Styrofoam that is dropped off. If you generate a lot of Styrofoam they will make pickups for a nominal fee. Check their website to see exactly what they'll take, and for their hours. Packing peanuts can be taken there or to most shipping stores, who will reuse them. In both cases the material must be clean and free of other items like tape and cardboard.
9. Where can I recycle electronics, and is it really free? Back to the Top
Many electronics can be recycled for free, for others there may be a charge. A Washington State Law that went into effect January 1, 2009 requires manufacturers to provide a recycling network where televisions, computers, computer monitors and portable or laptop computers can be dropped off for free by end users and small businesses. The trick is determining which recyclers are doing it in the most sustainable manner. The Basel Action Network is in the process of certifying recyclers and has set up another site called E-Stewards where you can search for certified recyclers. Keep in mind that a recycler that isn't listed may still be OK, they just might not have been certified yet. Total Reclaim is certified by BAN. RE-PC is not certified, but they're a good choice because they resell usable items, and send the rest to Total Reclaim for recycling. Total Reclaim does not sort items for reuse or resale, everything is just recycled. Remember that the the mantra is Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, with recycling being the 3rd choice. Go to RE-PC or another reseller first. See our archived Electronics Recycling Tip for details.
10. Where can I recycle used rechargeable batteries? Back to the Top
In Burien Radio Shack and Staples accept used rechargeable batteries. That includes batteries from electronic devices like cell phones, cordless phones, cordless power tools and toys, and more. To find out more information and additional locations visit
11. What about regular alkaline batteries, can they be recycled? Back to the Top
You can find locations to recycle various types of batteries by using this King County page. Budget Batteries on Ambaum in Burien will buy back used automobile batteries and accepts UPS batteries for recycling, as well as selling replacements for many sizes. Total Reclaim accepts alkaline batteries and some other types, but charges a per pound fee. Call them for details. I recently found out that McLendon Hardware will accept dead alkaline batteries and rechargeable batteries, please keep them separate, they are handled differently.
12. What should I do with old medication [prescription and over the counter]? Back to the Top
Medications of all kinds (prescription, over the counter, pet medicines) are a huge problem when they get into the environment. The old advice of flushing them down the toilet turned out to be seriously wrong. The best solution now is to use a Drug Take Back program where they will be disposed of in a way that doesn't allow them to get into the environment. Fortunately there's a place in Burien where you can drop off old medicine of all types, and that's the Bartells Pharmacy on 4th Ave SW. There is no charge for this service, Bartells is a participant in a voluntary network, help support them by shopping there. Check their Take it back page for a complete list of what can and can not be returned for safe disposal. Don't forget about things like aspirin, cough syrup, pet medication and ointments.
13. Is there any way to stop getting all those Yellow Pages Phone Books every year? Back to the Top
Do you get more Yellow Pages Directories delivered to your house than you need? This Washington Post article tells you how to opt out of future deliveries. Two Directory Trade groups have set up where you can enter your zip code to get a list of providers and a way to contact them to get deliveries stopped. Cut back to just one or stop them all. Since you have to give them a lot of information you should read the Privacy Policy of each company and be sure that you're comfortable with it before you opt-out.
14. I signed up, how come I'm not getting any emails from you? Back to the Top

If you gave us an email address so that we could contact you, and you haven't gotten anything there could be several reasons. Some handwritten addresses on our signup sheet were too hard to read, so we decided not to guess. Some we apparently got wrong anyway and they bounced. And in a few cases our emails were blocked by over-zealous spam filters and bounced. We even had a few addresses that were known to be good in the past that started bouncing when something changed at the other end, usually when the owners started forwarding to another address. Any email addresses that generate a bounce are removed from our list. If you use a Challenge-Response spam filter, that's considered a bounce.

Someday when we grow up we'll find a good, well run, free [or at least cheap] mailing list service and we'll switch to that instead of doing it all by hand. Good [cheap] ones are hard to find though. If you have a suggestion please let us know. Meanwhile, if you want to get on our list, please send an email to <SignUp>. To make sure that our list is legitimate we're now using a confirmed opt-in sign-up process, so you'll get a response from us, requiring that you reply to that before your address is added to our list. See our Newsletters page for a little more information.

You may ask to be removed from the list at any time for any reason.
15. If I want to haul my own recycling where can I take it? Back to the Top

The easiest and most cost effective way to take care of most household recyclables [glass, cans, plastic bottles, paper and yard waste] is to sign up for curbside recycling. By having a truck pick up all the recyclables for everyone in the area, there's better efficiency than having a lot of cars and small trucks hauling things to a collection point. If you want to recycle something that you can't put in the bins, the best two places to check are the King County What Do I Do With... and Take it Back Network sites.

If you want to haul your own material for some reason, then the normal place to take it would be the Bow Lake Transfer Station. Unfortunately that Recycling Center is closed until late 2012 due to construction and the closest similar facility is the South Seattle Transfer Station near the First Avenue South bridge. The Seattle Transfer Stations also have a Reuse program in conjunction with ReStore, Earthwise, and Second Use.

You can check these two PDF files for other alternatives: this Closure Notice lists alternative locations for many recyclable materials and this King County Guide to Solid Waste Recycling and Transfer Facilities also has information about recycling locations. There's a possibility that a local, temporary, alternate Recycling Center may be opened nearby. If it does, it will be posted here.

16. Where can I find out about rebates, tax breaks and subsidies for energy saving products and projects? Back to the Top

There are a lot of sources for rebates, credits and incentives. The best place to start is the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency. They list most/all of the various rebate and incentive programs by State, including from local utilities. You can check for some additional programs and information. DSIRE has a page specifically for Seattle City Light programs.

There are also Federal tax credits and exemptions available, including a federal tax credit for 30 percent of the cost up to $1,500 on equipment for a primary residence in effect through Dec. 31, 2010. See these pages at DSIRE: Residential Energy Conservation Subsidy Exclusion (Personal), Residential Energy Efficiency Tax Credit and Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit

There is an upcoming Cash-for Clunkers type of program for appliances. In Washington State the start date has been moved up to March 15, 2010. It will cover refrigerators and washing machines. The refrigerator program will only last a couple of months, the washing machine program will go until December or the money runs out. (The above link is currently broken, but you can download a PDF Fact Sheet from the State that has the current information.)

17. Where I can I get information about building a Raingarden? Back to the Top

Raingardens are an easy and attractive way to reduce the impact of development on local streams, rivers and Puget Sound. Roof gutters, pavement and hard surfaces all concentrate the flow of rain water and dump it into the local water systems. Often this rush of rain water carries pollutants and chemicals into the waterways, and that is a large part of what has affected Puget Sound salmon runs. A Raingarden can reduce the flash effect of development, and actually clean rain water as it moves through the Raingarden and into the waterways.

  • This Seattle PI article talks about the advantages of Raingardens and includes some links at the end.
  • The Puget Sound Raingarden section from WSU Extension Program has a goal of 12,000 Raingardens in Puget Sound. There are listings of registered gardens for each County. They have information about planning and building Raingardens, as well an excellent Rain Garden Handbook for Western Washington Homeowners [6.5 MB PDF file]. This handbook will tell you almost everything you need to know about building a Raingarden.
  • Stewardship Partners have sections on Raingardens, a schedule of upcoming, free Raingarden classes, a Google Map of existing public Raingardens in Puget Sound, alternatives for when Raingardens just aren't practical, and much more.
  • The City of Seattle has a Rainwise page with information about storm water management, including lots of downloadable pamphlets on things like tree planting, pavement mitigation, cisterns, and rock filled drainage trenches. Their Rainwise tools page has information about their Raingarden incentive program, Raingarden planning and more.
  • SPU and the UW have posted online their training material from their Stormwater Design Seminars. Some of the material is pretty advanced but there are also presentations about locating and planning the garden, choosing plants, disconnecting down spouts and several items about cisterns.
  • is based in Michigan, but also has lots of good information about Raingardens.
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Content Updated Feb 27, 2010
Minor update July 13, 2009.