RENEW, REUSE, RE-PURPOSE--A Community Engagement Workshop

Saturday, September 23, 2017

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"RENEW, REUSE, RE-PURPOSE--A Community Engagement Workshop.” Concerned Citizens for Mercer Island Parks (CCMIP) held a reception, video screening and a community discussion to brainstorm future uses for the former recycling center.


Citizens attending the “Renew, Reuse, Re-purpose” Community Forum, held on Saturday, September 23, at the Mercer Island Library, were inspired by former MIHS students, members of the Committee to Save the Earth (CSE). One of the club’s achievements was the planning, design, funding, construction, and operation, for over three and a half decades, of the Mercer Island Recycling Center.

Following the screening of the 1991 video “Saving a Piece of the Earth,” about the origin, construction and operation of the Recycling Center, a panel of former members of CSE addressed the gathering. Rainer Adkins, who signed the October 4, 1972, proposal addressed to Mayor Aubrey Davis to construct and run a “recycling station” for Mercer Islanders, said he “was part of the group who envisioned the Recycling Center, but graduated before the construction.”

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Former MIHS students and members of CSE Doug Winder and John Koon, younger than Rainer, described their participation in the construction. Doug recalled working Saturdays at the concrete factory on the panels that were later delivered and bolted together to form the walls. Mike Leavitt, son of MIHS teacher and CSE advisor Harry Leavitt, said he spent “many weekends and afternoons” helping sort recycled materials and driving the Recycling Center truck with his dad. 

Architect Jim Adkins, Rainer’s dad, said, “I got involved when the students needed drawings by an architect to submit to the City for permitting--Rainer put up his hand and said, ‘My Dad’s an architect’!”

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Inspired by the stories of these former CSE students and the architect, the group considered the options for re-purposing the Recycling Center that were previously submitted to the City Council on July 12, 2010 in the Bainbridge Graduate Institute (BGI) report, then brainstormed additional suggestions.  Seattle architect Ellen Judson helped participants during this process.

The group concluded that the three options that (1) meet community need and (2) are best aligned with the CSE vision of community engagement and recycling are:

1. an Intake Center for the Thrift Shop, freeing up Thrift Shop space for more sales area;

2. a Native Plants and Gardening Center, perhaps in connection with a nursery for native plants in the Native Garden;

3. a Sustainability Education Center, perhaps with a Tool Library and/or Bike-Skateboard Repair Center (as the combination Northeast Seattle Tool Library/Bike Shack).

A report will be presented by the group that sponsored the forum, Concerned Citizens for Mercer Island Parks (CCMIP), to the City Council for their consideration.

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Some of the extensive exhibits that were displayed at the forum, pertaining to the work of the CSE and the history of the Recycling Center, will be on display at the Mercer Island Library from October 25 through November 3, 2017.

For a link to the video “Saving a Piece of the Earth” and more photos of the Forum, which included a reception celebrating 42 years of Mercer Island recycling, please visit



In 1969 a Mercer Island High School student, Bob Liberty, founded The Committee to Save the Earth (CSE). “The very first recycling event consisted of picking up cans and bottles and some cardboard from along the roadside,” Liberty wrote.

From collecting litter, CSE turned to focusing on recycling.  By 1975 these dedicated students, mentored by their teacher Harry Leavitt, had envisioned, planned, funded, and helped to build the Mercer Island Recycling Center. In 1976 then-Gov. Dan Evans awarded the CSE the state’s Environmental Excellence Award, accepted by MIHS student Bill Hochberg on behalf of the group.

Over the years, the Recycling Center saved millions of pounds from landfill and raised thousands of dollars that was used for school and community environmental projects. However, by 2010, curbside recycling cut into the income earned through the Recycling Center. It closed on February 28, 2010.

The City Council decided to repurpose the building and commissioned the Bainbridge Graduate Institute (BGI) to lead a community wide process to determine the best use for the building. BGI conducted a community survey and a stakeholders’ meeting and presented a 42-page report to the Council on July 12, 2010. However, the Council postponed action on the report and neglected to follow through on repurposing the building as envisioned by the stakeholders.

Concerned Citizens for Mercer Island Parks (CCMIP) welcomes Islanders to a Community Forum to update the BGI report and provide citizen input to the City Council to carry out the goals articulated by the 2010 Council for re-purposing the building—focusing on “uses that will address Mercer Island’s ongoing commitment to economic, environmental, and social sustainability.”

The Community Forum “RENEW, REUSE, RE-PURPOSE” will be held on September 23 from 1:30-3:30 PM at the Mercer Island Library. A reception to honor former CSE members and celebrate the 42nd anniversary of the opening of the Recycling Center will kick off the forum. A brief DVD about the history of the Recycling Center, “Saving a Piece of the Earth” (1991) will be screened, followed by a working session to generate ideas and strategies for realizing the goals articulated by the City Council in 2010.

Commemorative booklets and DVD’s will be given to attendees while supplies last. To reserve your copy in advance, email us at