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Executive Constantine launches Re+, reinventing the region’s waste system to cut carbon emissions, transition to a sustainable economy

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February 1, 2023


King County is launching a new initiative, Re+, to return valuable materials to the economy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions created by the region’s waste system. Re+ aims to recover nearly 70% of materials that are currently being sent to the landfill that could avoid becoming waste in the first place by being reused, recycled, or composted.

King County Executive Dow Constantine today launched Re+, an initiative to reinvent the region’s waste system to significantly cut greenhouse gas emissions and transition to a sustainable circular economy.

While King County has achieved one of the highest recycling rates in the country, nearly 70% of the materials currently brought to the regional landfill could be reused, recycled, or composted, rather than buried as waste that generates potent greenhouse gas emissions. Re+ will mobilize the public, private, and nonprofit sectors to extend producer responsibility, make it more convenient to recycle, reduce food waste, and invest in new technologies that recover valuable materials.

Re+ will advance a goal in King County’s 2020 Strategic Climate Action Plan to cut countywide greenhouse gas emissions in half by the end of the decade.

"Re+ is our commitment to reinventing the waste system to dramatically reduce carbon emissions and transition to a more sustainable economy,” said Executive Constantine. “The people and businesses of King County want to contribute to climate solutions. With these systemic changes, we will make it easier and less expensive for everyone to make sustainable choices.”

Re+ includes the following actions:

  • Forming partnerships and supporting state legislation that gets companies to take greater responsibility for the design, reuse, and recycling of their own products and packaging.
  • Expanding curbside food and yard waste collection and working with businesses to prevent highly recyclable and compostable materials – food, paper, yard waste, and cardboard – from going to the landfill and producing more emissions.
  • Investing in new technologies that recover valuable materials from garbage and get them back into the economy.
  • Providing support to local businesses so they can keep their food waste out of the landfill and get edible food to those who need it.
  • Offering inclusive, equitable grants and technical assistance to small businesses, communities, and nonprofits that are creating innovative zero-waste and recycling strategies.
  • Partnering with cities and state legislators to make recycling and composting practices more consistent.

Producing, packaging, shipping, and disposing of products all contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, but some of the best opportunities for improvement are in food waste, which accounts for about one-third of materials that currently end up at the Cedar Hills Regional Landfill in Maple Valley.

Businesses and households in King County in 2019 threw out enough edible food to feed everyone in Kirkland – about 92,000 people – for an entire year. Food production requires large amounts of resources – particularly water and energy – while creating significant greenhouse gas emissions. If food is not eaten and ends up at the landfill, its decay can create methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

By enacting new policies, supporting state legislation, coordinating with cities, and partnering with businesses, King County can reduce the amount of waste currently generated, decrease the demand for virgin materials and the energy required for manufacturing, and make recycling and composting more convenient.

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