Secrets to a Sustainable Fall

  • Written by Guest Column By Michelle Metzler
There’s nothing quite like the arrival of fall in the Pacific Northwest. The air turns crisp, the leaves change color and, for a brief window, the days still stretch out long and full of light.
As we prepare for the changing seasons, squeezing the last out of the good weather with on-the-go activities and takeout food can make for sloppy recycling. And even though Woodinville is home to a strong recycling program, there’s no time like the present to make sure we’re all recycling right.
By recycling, you’re helping to put valuable materials like paper, plastic and metals to their next best use. After leaving your recycling bin, recyclable materials are sorted and shipped to “end markets” (manufacturers in the US and worldwide) to be made into new products.
Markets for recyclable materials have been in flux for months, since China announced stringent requirements for cleaner materials (less contamination in the recycling). China’s new policies have forced a global reset for recycling because China has historically been the world’s primary purchaser of mixed paper. The result is a global oversupply of mixed paper, an energized pursuit of new markets, and an unprecedented need to “clean up recycling” – to ensure materials are actually turned into new products.  
What can you do to help sustain a healthy recycling system in our community? 
1. Keep recycling! Recycle all bottles, cans and paper. By placing the right materials in your recycling cart, you are preparing them for their next life as a new product.
2. Keep items clean and dry. No food, liquids or wet materials. When paper products are wet or have food residue, they start to breakdown and cannot be made into new products. Because all of your recyclables go into one cart, it’s important that cans and food containers are free of food residue to keep that paper nice and clean.
3. Place recyclables loose in your cart; no bagged materials and no plastic bags of any type in the recycling. Bags of recyclables often look like bags of garbage at the recycling facility, so they end up at the landfill. Also, when the bags break, they get tangled in the equipment at the recycling facility, creating maintenance delays that slow the process and make recycling more expensive for our community.
While you’re at it, help your friends and family recycle right when you host fall potlucks by providing containers clearly marked for recycling, compost and garbage. 
Cheers for sustainable fall!
Michelle Metzler is Waste Management’s recycling education and outreach manager. WM’s Cascade Recycling Center in Woodinville processes recycling from more than 250,000 homes in Western Washington. Learn more at

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