County no longer wants your old electronics

EVERETT — Snohomish County’s solid waste division is pulling out of a popular state program for recycling electronics — only months after it got started.

It’s one of several cost-cutting measures at a time of falling trash revenues. The county also plans to discontinue latex-paint recycling, shorten operating hours at transfer stations and close some rural sites for dropping off trash. The cutbacks take effect June 28.

“The downturn of the economy is so dramatic,” county solid waste director Matt Zybas said. “We’re feeling the pain just like everybody else is.”

Trash volumes have declined along with consumer spending. Earlier this year, the county’s solid-waste division realized that it would likely fall $12 million short of projected revenues. That forced administrators to slim their budget to $46 million from $58 million.

The E-Cycle Washington program, created through a 2006 state law, was designed to make electronics manufacturers pay for product disposal. In Snohomish County, the program had been more successful than expected since starting this year. Through April, the county contributed 2.1 million pounds of consumer products, about 17 percent of the state total.

More than 20 sites in the county accepted old appliances, computer parts and stereo equipment, including three county transfer stations. Others are Goodwill stores, PC Recycle stores and businesses specializing in computer recycling.

The county was getting enough money to cover costs. The problem, Zybas said, arose from too many people dropping off electronics. They just didn’t have enough people to handle electronics as well as other more traditional recycling of glass, aluminum and newspapers.

The Washington Material Management and Financing Authority, the manufacturer-funded group that runs E-Cycle, plans to find new collection sites, particularly near Arlington.

“Without additional sites, we would make it. I don’t know that it would be convenient,” executive director John Friedrick said.

Not all county governments participate, Friedrick said. The transfer stations were successful because they took in electronics from people who might not have known about the program.

Before this year, the county charged residents between $10 and $24 dollars to discard electronics, depending on the item. There are no plans to return to that system, Zybas said.

Another casualty of the solid-waste cutbacks is a program for recycling latex paint. Instead, residents should dry out paint cans and put them in the trash with the lids off.

Other cutbacks could inconvenience rural customers. Rural drop boxes in Oso and Gold Bar, open one day a week, are set to close.

“The question is will that create an increase in illegal dumping?” Councilman Brian Sullivan asked.

Zybas said staff would monitor illegal dumping. Boxes in Dubuque, Sultan and Granite Falls are to remain open.

Solid-waste jobs are disappearing, too. Recently, 32 workers received pink slips, Zybas said. The division lost 38 budgeted positions.

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465 or nhaglund@heraldnet.com.

Recycling changes

Electronics won’t be accepted for recycling at three Snohomish County waste-transfer stations starting June 28. For other locations, search “electronics” at www.snoco.org or call 425-388-3425.

Latex paint recycling is being discontinued on the same date. Dried cans should go in the garbage. To dry paint more quickly, mix it with unused cat litter, sawdust, dirt, shredded paper or paint hardener.

Hours of operation at county recycling and transfer-station hours are being shortened. Neighborhood drop boxes in Gold Bar and Oso are closing. For specific times, search “solid waste” on www.snoco.org.

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