By Becky Chan
Northwest Asian Weekly
Thank you for helping Seattle recycle the Alaskan Way Viaduct. Yes, you, the sentimental ones who got a chunk of concrete as a keepsake via the Friends of Waterfront Seattle. The viaduct replacement or “displacement” project turned out to be a massive recycling program. With your help, no matter how small, Washington Department of Transportation (WSDOT) kept tons of concrete out of the state’s waste stream. Increasingly, people are finding creative ways to divert waste from the landfill.
Demolition of the 67-year-old viaduct began in February 2019 and finished in November.
Some cheered and sneered as the 2.2-mile concrete stretch succumbed to the gang of enormous cranes. Others reminisced about their commute on the elevated freeway, slowed by the glorious Puget Sound sunsets against the Olympic Mountains. Most agreed the viaduct was a barrier between downtown and the waterfront.
WSDOT recycled 240 million pounds of concrete and reclaimed 15 million pounds of steel rebar from the viaduct. Most of the concrete was pulverized and used to fill the decommissioned Battery Street Tunnel. A few pieces went to you.
Ok, so you don’t have chunks of concrete to give away. You do have small pieces of leftover cabinet-grade laminated plywood saved for projects. They’ve been in the garage for years. They should go because you are now busy learning how to paint. Will you do the unthinkable and put them in the trash? Goodwill doesn’t want them. No bite on the Buy Nothing group.
Have you heard of Seattle Recreative (SR)?
SR, a Greenwood nonprofit, is “a creative reuse store and community art center.” It’ll gladly take your wood pieces plus a whole list of things most people would trash. You know those plastic tabs that keep your Dave’s Killer Bread fresh? Yep, they have those.
While you’re in the store, you can buy paints, paper, and brushes at discounted prices to hone your new skill.
The store has a maker space with a large table, should you need one to cut a pattern or make a frame. Tools are also available. All free. Upstairs is a classroom for art classes.
Jenna Boitano, executive director and co-founder, recently told Northwest Asian Weekly how she came up with the idea for the business.
“I wanted my kids, really all kids, to have a space like this, to think about possibility and be creative in how they use things.”
Boitano founded the business with another Seattle mom, Emily Korson. Korson has since moved to Denver. Both had experience working in nonprofits with similar missions.
Boitano was on the board of Scrap Exchange in Durham, N.C. Korson worked for Materials for the Arts in New York City.
SR promotes the freedom to create, build community, and decrease landfill. Last year, the donation-based and mostly volunteer-run store took in 500,000 pounds of stuff, saving it from the landfill. Some of the inventory is used in community outreach programs in partnership with parks and libraries in King County and Seattle. SR also works with the Hunger Intervention Program.
Boitano on accepting donations, “I have to be picky because I want stuff that sells.”
Yet, the store is jam-packed with surprises. A visit guarantees a murmur, “What? They have this…” Drawerfuls of crayons, pencils, bottle caps, small pieces of Plexiglas, twist ties fill the store. Foam boards, paper rolls, and wood pieces lean against the walls awaiting new homes. Colorful yarns, fabric, and threads tug at the artists’ hearts. Boitano recalled a customer telling her, “I can do my art because you’re here.”
SR partners with Ballard Reuse, a used and salvaged building materials store, to take in large donations. A percentage of the donation sale goes to SR.
Ballard Reuse is one of three construction salvage companies in Seattle. The other two, located south of downtown, are Second Use and Earthwise Architectural Salvage. All specialize in donated and reclaimed construction materials. Leaded glass windows that once shone in a craftsman home or fir flooring of assorted lengths are ready for reincarnation. The proceeds from donations can benefit designated nonprofits.
With a red-hot housing market, construction and demolition account for about 31% of all waste disposed in Seattle, according to SPU.
Second Use claims to divert over 3,000 tons of materials from landfills each year. Last year, it donated $250,000 to local chapters of Habitat for Humanity.
Another company that can help you get rid of stuff is Ridwell.
In 2017, Ryan Metzger and his then 7-year-old son Owen, while trying to dispose of some dead batteries, started a recycling drive in their neighborhood. Growing interest and demand helped Metzger launch Ridwell in 2018. Ridwell provides paying subscribers with a metal bin and cotton bags marked for the four core recycling categories —batteries, lightbulbs, threads/textile, and plastic film.
Metzger said plastic film is the highest volume collected. Films include the plastic wrap that goes around your Thanh Son tofu, meat trays from Uwajimaya, and plastic bags.
Since Seattle and King County stopped recycling plastic bags, the volume collected by Ridwell continues to rise. Ridwell partners with PAC Worldwide, a package company based in Redmond, to recycle some of the plastic film.
At each bi-weekly collection, there’s a fifth rotating category. Broken or whole eyeglasses for Northwest Lions Club, kitchenware for Refugee Women’s Alliance, or bottle caps for Seattle Recycled Arts have taken turns.
Ridwell, Seattle Recreative, Earthwise, and Ballard Reuse are sponsors for Seattle Recycled Arts’ Zero Waste Pop-Up Market. This year’s event will feature goods made from at least 75% recycled material and a juried art show. Mark it on your calendar. Get down to Georgetown on May 9 and be inspired on how to be creative with your waste. And then participate in their fall fashion show in November, featuring “trash fashion, everyday wear and dumpster couture.”
You’ll think twice before you trash that bottle cap, won’t you?
Becky can be reached at email@example.com.