MERCER ISLAND RECYCLING CENTER: Award-winning student-initiated project
Watch "A Brief History of the Mercer Island Recycle Center" here: tinyurl.com/protectMIparks
The Mercer Island Recycling Center was envisioned and realized by the “Committee to Save the Earth,” a group of Mercer Island High School students advised by MIHS teacher Harry Leavitt. Over three years, in the early 1970’s, these students raised enough money selling recycled newspapers and glass to purchase all the materials, except those donated, to build the Recycling Center.
Designed by James E. Adkins, Jr. AIA CSI, the 1800 square foot structure has a pyramidal roof culminating in a cupola skylight. Built by student and community volunteers, including a team of Navy Seabees, it has solid concrete “tilt-up” walls. In a recent interview, Mr. Adkins (now 89) stated “the building is as strong today as it was 50 years ago—it will last another 50 years!”
With surrounding landscaping designed by Dirk Jongejan ASLA, the Recycling Center opened on September 15, 1975.
The Mercer Island Recycling Center was one of the first in the state of Washington to be certified by the State Department of Ecology. In 1976, then-Governor Dan Evans presented the state's Environmental Excellence Award to the student members of the Committee to Save the Earth. For 35 years the Recycling Center operated as a vital community service. In 2010, when it was closed due to the City’s curbside recycling program, the City of Mercer Island announced “a community process to re-purpose the site to other uses.” But when the report was presented to the City Council on July 19, 2010, the City failed to follow up on the citizens’ recommendations.
This sturdy and attractive building now provides Mercer Island’s only Town Center public restrooms, facilities for the summer Farmers Market and City storage. The Recycling Center, in its location adjacent to the Native Garden, would be ideal for serving as an educational Sustainability Center for Mercer Island citizens, thus carrying on the legacy of the high school students who conceived and built it.
Read the history of the Recycling Center in this Mercer Island Reporter article published August 9, 2017.