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Snohomish County is seeking to reduce the amount of waste that ends up in landfills after the 12-day event, which opens Thursday.
The fair is one of the county's biggest garbage generators, sending about 240 tons of refuse to dumping grounds each year.
“That's roughly the weight of 19 empty school buses,” said Garrison Marr, a county conservation specialist.
Now, 30 stations are available around the fairgrounds for people to separate their trash for recycling, compost and garbage.
The county wants to reduce the amount of waste that goes into landfills by 150 tons in three years. By 2017, it hopes to divert most of the fairground's refuse to recycling or composting.
Last year, just eight tons of the fair's trash was recycled, Marr said. Some vendors composted their own material, but there was no place for the public to do so.
So Snohomish County has hired people to help fair-goers sort garbage into the appropriate bins. Six teens and an adult supervisor are expected to rove the fairgrounds, educating people on what they can recycle or compost rather than throw into the trash.
The county intends to study the waste from the fair to get an idea of what type of garbage is being tossed out, Marr said. Workers plan to sort through trash bags to determine how much of the material could have been recycled or composted. They expect to then use that data to come up with ways to further reduce the amount that goes to landfills.
“It's gross and great in equal doses,” Marr said.
Having less trash to haul away is expected to save about $10,000 a year in fairgrounds operating costs. The county spends some $2.5 million to produce the annual fair, said Hal Gausman, the grounds manager.
“The zero-waste program saves some money but it is not always about the money,” he said in an email. Gausman said is focused on being as environmentally responsible as possible.
“It's really moving to zero waste,” said Bob Leonard, a county maintenance supervisor for parks and the fairgrounds.
In 2015, Leonard said, the county likely will require vendors to use compostable food containers and utensils.
“This is the one event we really need to hit hard,” Leonard said. “This is the time we can really make a difference.”
Amy Nile: 425-339-3192; firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @AmyNileReports.
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