It’s time to talk trash | Guest editorial

King County’s long-term planning decisions will affect what residents pay for garbage collection and disposal over the next 20 years and what kind of recycling services will be available.

  • Tuesday, February 6, 2018 8:30am
  • Opinion
Penny Sweet. Courtesy photo

Penny Sweet. Courtesy photo

By Penny Sweet

Kirkland City Council

I want to talk a little trash with you. I am talking about waste and recyclables and what we as a community are going to do about them.

A conversation is happening now that will influence King County’s long-term planning decisions affecting what you pay for garbage collection and disposal over the next 20 years and what kind of recycling services will be available for us all. As a community, we need to be part of this conversation. It affects every resident and it is up to us to produce a plan together. If the Kirkland community doesn’t participate, we run a risk described in the saying, “if you are not at the table, you could be on the menu.”

So what are we talking about?

As many know, the Houghton Transfer Station has been in Kirkland for a long time. The property was originally a landfill in the 1930s through the 1960s. In the 1960s and 1970s, homes began appearing around the landfill property. In 1965, the landfill was closed and capped with soil, isolating the trash from the rest of the environment. To replace the landfill, a new transfer station was built on about six acres on the south side of the property in 1967.

King County intended to close the transfer station in the 1990s and replace it but the price tag of a new station got in the way. Closure was called for again in the 2006 Transfer System Plan but it didn’t happen then either.

Kirkland City Council has been consistent and steadfast in its position that the station be closed as soon as possible and a new modern replacement station should be built in northeast King County. A new station could be sited in Kirkland or elsewhere, depending on the outcome of a siting process.

This is where you come in.

The Draft Comprehensive Solid Waste Management Plan was drafted over several years by King County through a thoughtful process with city elected officials and solid waste professionals representing you on the Metropolitan Solid Waste Advisory Committee. I am privileged to chair this committee.

The recommendations made in the final plan are the road map for the future of the transfer system but the draft leaves open King County Council’s ultimate decisions whether to close and replace Houghton or to leave it open. Right now the options include:

  • Keeping Houghton Transfer Station open indefinitely at its current location
  • Siting and building a new, modern station in northeast King County
  • Using a combination of facilities, for example leaving Houghton open to residential self-haul and constructing a second station just for commercial haulers

Whether the station is ultimately closed or not, there is another conversation to be had about the future uses of the remaining 33 acres of landfilled.

These questions affect our entire community, not just the surrounding neighbors. After all, it is everybody’s trash and each of us will see the effects of this plan in the rates we pay for garbage collection and disposal and the recycling services available at transfer stations.

Our collective voices influenced landfill changes in 2004 when the city negotiated with King County to commit to making the neighborhood and city safer, quieter and more livable. We made a lot of changes including rerouting trucks, building a noise wall, stopping onsite storage of partially filled trailers and building walking paths on the site. These improvements came about because community members went to meetings, sent in comments, paid attention and took action.

We call upon you now to pay attention to this trash talk. You can read what is currently in the plan on the King County website by searching “Solid Waste Management Plan Update.” They have a survey online now, there are email address contacts, the address for written comments and a schedule of open houses around the county.

Please join me in paying attention to this important opportunity to have your voice heard. You might find you like talking trash.

Penny Sweet is a Kirkland City Council member.

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