King County, WA

Jurisdiction: King County, WA

Plan Year: 2012

Progress Report Year: 2013


King County’s 2012 Strategic Climate Action Plan (SCAP) was created as a result of a King County Council ordinance requiring the King County Executive to develop a CAP using the County’s 2010-2014 Strategic Plan as a framework. The SCAP, which was developed collaboratively by the King County Executive, Dow Constantine, and the County Council, builds off the Strategic Plan’s goal of environmental sustainability to reduce climate pollution and prepare for the impacts of climate change. The County Council required the first SCAP to be developed in less than one year, and so it focused its primary efforts on county operations. In its 2012 ordinance, the County Council also required an update to the plan, with a greater focus on community actions, by June 2015. Besides the County’s Strategic Plan, the SCAP builds on work from its 2007 Climate Plan, 2006 and 2012 Climate Motions, 2010 Energy Plan, Solid Waste Comprehensive Plan, and others.

The plan is based off emissions from a 2008 greenhouse gas inventory in King County that measured emissions at both the community and municipal level. In quantifying community sources of greenhouse gas emissions, King County and its partners in the study, including Puget Sound Clean Air Agency, City of Seattle, and the U.S. Department of Energy, measured all sources of emissions within the county’s geographic borders. For the first time, the study also attempted to quantify emissions from local consumption of food, goods, and services produced both inside and outside the County’s borders. In doing this, King County found that:

“emissions related to goods and services consumed within King County, even if those goods and services were produced elsewhere, were more than twice as high as the emissions that occurred locally. The study’s finding of significant emissions from a wide range of sources emphasizes that King County and its partners must pursue a diverse range of climate solutions.”

King County established two overarching targets for its SCAP, one for communitywide emissions and one for county operations.

  • Communitywide target: Reduce countywide greenhouse-gas emissions by at least 80 percent below 2007 levels by 2050
  • County operations target: Reduce total greenhouse-gas emissions from government operations, compared to a 2007 baseline, by at least 15 percent by 2015, 25 percent by 2020, and 50 percent by 2030

For its communitywide target, King County emphasized the need for residents, businesses, local governments and other partners to work together to reduce emissions. The King County Growth Management Planning Council passed a policy in 2011 that recommends a shared countywide greenhouse gas emissions reduction target that meets or exceeds the statewide reduction requirement of 50% below 1990 levels by 2050. The policy was amended in 2014 and includes reduction goals of 25% by 2020, 50% by 2030, and 80% by 2050, compared to a 2007 baseline. 

Materials Management Goals:

  • Increase the countywide recycling rate to 70% by 2020
  • Zero waste of resources that can be reused, resold, or recycled by 2030


  • Conduct an outreach campaign and provide incentives and support to increase communitywide recycling and composting
  • Partner with haulers and recycling and composting businesses to increase productive reuse and recycling of materials
  • Develop, expand and support markets for reused and recycled products and for County produced renewable resources
  • Provide and increase recycling and composting collection at King County transfer stations
  • Provide tools and support to King County schools and other partners to improve waste prevention, resource conservation and efficiency efforts

Read more about these priority actions and existing efforts in these areas on pages 37-38 of the report.

Progress Report:

In its 2013 Annual Sustainability Report, King County reported a decline in per capita GHG emissions for the average King County resident, despite the fact that total overall emissions increased. The report noted that the County was not on track to meet its reduction targets. In the Consumption and Materials Management section, King County reported that its residents and businesses continued to recycle or compost more than half of all their waste, thanks in part to campaigns such as Recycle More: It’s Easy To Do and Food: Too Good to Waste. (Read about these two campaigns on page 37 of the 2013 report.)

  • Overall recycling rates remained the same as 2011 at 52 percent (data for 2013 was not yet available)
    • Reduced GHG emissions by more than 1.3 million metric tons of CO2e
  • Waste generated per week per capita in 2012 was the same as the previous year (21.9 pounds)
    • On track to meet the Comprehensive Solid Waste Management Plan goal of 20.4 pounds per week by 2020
  • Waste disposed per week per capita decreased slightly from the previous period (13.4 pounds)
    • Surpasses solid waste plan goal of 14.2 pounds per week by 2020

Next Steps:

In order to achieve the 70% recycling rate and zero waste, King County reported that it would require a collaborative approach with the County, the cities, and private solid waste and recycling companies. In the 2013 report, King County outline the following “desired behaviors” to reach its materials management goals:

  • Making sure that adequate public and/or private infrastructure is in place (e.g., building new transfer stations; Materials Recycling Facilities capacity/capabilities)
  • Continued education and promotion
  • Incentives, such as grants and recycling fees at transfer stations
  • Mandates or bans on disposal of certain materials such as those with a high value or are easily recyclable