"Our human destiny is inextricably linked to the actions of all other living things. Respecting this principle is the fundamental challenge in changing the nature of business."
- Paul Hawken, The Ecology of Commerce


- = Sustainable Economy Initiatives = -


LinkUp is an initiative by King County’s Solid Waste Division which helps Puget Sound area manufacturers to incorporate more recycled materials into their products.


When the state of Washington decided to cease funding its recycling market development program, King County, of which Seattle is the principal city, launched LinkUp in 2000 to encourage more regional manufacturers to incorporate recycled materials into their products. An earlier survey had shown that out of 700 surveyed manufacturers, 42% said that they already used some recycled material, of whom many were interested to use more, and 51% said they did not use any, and wanted to learn how to do so.

Taking the entire production cycle into account, the average American generates 22 tons of waste material a year, totalling over 6 billion tons a year. When garbage is sent to the landfill, each ton generates $40 in revenue, and 13 jobs for every 100,000 tons. When it is recycled, each ton generates $120, and 79 jobs for every 100,000 tons. When it is remanufactured into new goods, however, each ton generates $1,110 in income, and 162 jobs for every 100,000 tons.

Several developments are combining to encourage the greater re-use of recycled materials:

  • Landfill charges are making it more expensive to dump unwanted materials;
  • Government green purchasing requirements are calling for the purchase of goods and supplies which contain higher levels of recycled material;
  • The building industry and some local governments are enthusiastically embracing the new green certification standard, known as LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design –, which awards points for the use of building materials with high recycled content;
  • The Environmental Protection Agency has ordered the phase-out of CCA (copper chrome arsenic) treated lumber in outdoor play equipment by the end of 2003, stimulating the demand for timber substitutes made from recycled plastic.

Aims and Objectives

LinkUp’s goal is to provide free, customized, easy-to-access technical expertise and promotional resources to help Puget Sound manufacturers incorporate more recycled materials into their products.


LinkUp sets up partnerships with eligible businesses, and helps them to design new strategies to use more recycled material, and promote their products in the marketplace. This might include:

  • Evaluating the market potential for a new product with recycled content;
  • Identifying sources of public and private financial assistance, and assisting with business planning;
  • Identifying and overcoming market barriers;
  • Evaluating sources of recycled materials and locating reliable suppliers;
  • Providing engineering expertise on product fabrication and materials testing for a recycled content product;
  • Testing the recycling potential of a waste product such as scrap carpet;
  • Developing media campaigns and demonstration events to promote recycled products.

LinkUp has also developed a customized database, called DataLink, that connects manufacturers with more than 100 banks, chambers of commerce, government agencies and environmental groups throughout the region, providing 24-hour access to local resources.

Structure & Finance

LinkUp is a government initiative, organized by King County’s Waste Reduction & Recycling Section. It is funded by the Waste Reduction and Recycling Section of the county’s Solid Waste Division, and uses a team of specialists to provide the customized advice that its business partners need The program has an annual budget of $200,000 from King County.


Link-Up has developed successful partnerships with 18 companies in the Puget Sound region, increasing the use of recycled plastic, textiles, wood wastes, glass, tires, concrete, straw stubble, and asphalt. Here are a few of their stories:

  • Recycled glass, computer industry grinding paste and soil/rock waste has been used by the Quarry Tile Company to make up 75% of its Eco-Tile, saving the glass recycling company that it buys from $20,000 a year in landfill fees. Another company, Bedrock Industries, transforms 100,000 lbs of recycled glass every year into luminous tiles, dinnerware and garden products; it received help from LinkUp to test its products for use in residential and "green building" construction. A third recycled glass company, Allied Floors, received help to market and launch a new product called Spectocular Floors; these are made from recycled glass in a custom coloured cement base, and ground with a diamond grinder to reveals the distinctive glass and cement pattern.
  • Old tires are a major headache. Nationally, the US produces 280 million used tires a year, of which 84% come from passenger cars. In Washington State, which produces 5-6 million tires a year, the dumping of whole scrap tires in landfills has been banned, but the number of tires being recycled in King County dropped from 3,000 tons in 1995 to 1000 tons in 2001. The Schuyler Rubber Company developed a way to use recycled truck tires in the marine fenders that it makes for docks, tugboats, barges and workboats. It is currently handling 500 tires a day, recycling 100% of the steel-belted tires and 90% of the bias-ply tires, and LinkUp is helping it to identify government agencies that might become new customers. Another company, which collects 1.5 million scrap tires annually, received help from LinkUp to investigate the use of crumb rubber from old tires in recycled rubber products, civil engineering applications, and tire-derived fuel.
  • Urban Hardwoods collects the trees that are cut down by local tree pruning companies, utility crews and building contractors, and turns 90% of the trees into cabinets, tabletops and desks, selling the remaining 10% to local hobbyists.
  • Renton Concrete Recyclers, which crushes some 1500 tons of construction and demolition debris a day, has found a way to recycle the debris as aggregate for road-building, making a significant dent in the amount of virgin material that has to be quarried form local gravel pits, while reducing the cost of road-building. LinkUp is helping another construction and demolition debris company to develop a market for recycled scrap carpet.
  • American Plastic Manufacturing, which has recycled more than 10 million plastic milk jugs into plastic bags since 1995, received help from LinkUp to market the recycled plastic bags, to increase their visibility. Another company, MetaMorf Inc, received help with its business plan to expand the use of a technique that can mould 100% of recycled plastic into brightly coloured chairs, benches and tables.
  • Y.K. Products makes a road repair product called U.S. Cold Patch from 70% recycled asphalt, that uses compaction instead of heat as its method, avoiding the release of petroleum-based solvents which arises in the use of other cold patch asphalt patching materials. LinkUp helped the company expand into the Puget Sound area by sponsoring a series of meetings with government purchasing agents and road maintenance officials. The product is now being used by more than 60 area municipalities and public works facilities.
  • Brandrud Furniture has been reducing the quantity of hardwood in its chairs and sofas by substituting wheatboard, made from waste wheat-straw, and by using a product made from recycled sunflower seed shells in its shelving and tabletops. LinkUp helped the company to tell its environmental story through a promotional campaign, and will be helping it to identify new ways to incorporate recycled materials into its products.
  • Custom Handweaving, a Seattle business which uses scrap and discarded textiles to make colourful handcrafted rag-rugs, received help to find new sources of quality discarded textiles, and to sell its story through the media, which lead to an order to make 48 rugs for the new Puget Sound Environmental Learning Center.


That the LinkUp program is truly regional in scope is one of the main reasons for its success, since markets for King County’s recycled materials extend beyond the county’s borders. In the future, the county hopes to capitalize on that aspect of the program by persuading other governments and organizations in the surrounding area to become partners in LinkUp and help expand it into an even more broadly regional program with a greater capacity for using recycled materials.

For further information contact :

Erv Sandlin, LinkUp,
Solid Waste Division, Waste Reduction & Recycling Section,
201 South Jackson St, #701,
Seattle, WA 98104
Tel: (206) 296-6542
Fax: (206) 296-4475

Written by Guy Dauncey, Sustainable Communities Consultancy, Victoria, B.C., Canada