Recycling roadblock spurs King County re-education campaign. Are you 'Recycling Right?'

SEATTLE -- You might think you're being green-- but all the effort you and your family put in to sort your trash and get those bins out on time each week could be going to waste if you're not 'Recycling Right'. That's the name of the new King County Solid Waste Division program to get consumers, like all of us, to clean up our act.

While King County is a leader in recycling efforts, keeping more than a million tons of waste each year from the landfill, we could do better by tons and tons. The new restrictions China has put on importing American recyclables has been a call to action for the waste industry to re-educate their consumers.

American recyclables used to be Chinese treasure, but earlier this year when the Asian importer of recycled materials said 'no more' to mixed paper and plastics. It sent shock waves through the cities and counties across the country. The problem? The loads were contaminated by being mixed with lots of other things.

"We need to eliminate the contamination," says Pat McLaughlin with King Co. Solid Waste Division. "The best way to do that is at home." McLaughlin has run the waste division for six years now and says luckily the Chinese restrictions on mixed paper and plastics only affects 14 percent of our overall recycling. But, the county thought it was a good time to take their customers, that's all of us, back to school.

"We're surrounded by people who want to do the right thing," says McLaughlin. He says King County landfills are running out of room. The best way to extend the ten years we have left is for each and every one of us to recycle right. About 70 percent of what we throw away could be recycled.

"If we don't put those resources in the right bin: empty, clean and dry-- then we're actually at risk of contaminating the good resources that are in there," says McLaughlin.

The mantra is simple. Empty. Clean. Dry.

While it is a little extra work, but cleaning food reside and keeping recyclables dry keeps them free of food muck, mold or mildew. That means it keeps tons and tons of useful reusable material from going into the landfill.

Right now, McLaughlin says most American recycling facilities can't yet produce recyclables to the new strict Chinese standard of one half to three percent contamination rate. But it is a goal they're working towards-- but we all have to help.

They've put up a new website for the county their 37 partner cities-- so if you're in doubt, you can find out. And with more people recycling right, McLaughlin says that saves taxpayer dollars and environment at the same time.

And here's a handy shortcut to a quick video that shows you what can and can't go in your blue bin in Seattle.