Oregon Recycling Rate Drops

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality has reported that state's recycling rate dropped between 2005 and 2006, and fell short of 2009 recycling goal.

From the Statesman Journal:

Twenty-one of Oregon's 36 counties saw recycling rates drop from 2005 to 2006 as gains in recycling were surpassed by increasing consumption.

A report from the state Department of Environmental Quality states that Oregonians generated 5.75 million tons of trash last year, a roughly 4 percent jump from the year before. Even though households and businesses are recycling more, there is a widening gap between the amount of trash produced and the amount recovered.

Oregon's overall recycling rate dropped to 47.5 percent, short of a 2009 goal of 50 percent. During 2005, Oregonians recycled slightly more than 49 percent of the material they threw away.

Recycling in three-county area near Portland dropped to 55.5 percent, sending it below Marion County, which was at 57.5 percent.

Oregonians are producing more trash than ever:

Oregonians generated a record-high of 3,118 pounds of waste per person in 2006.

Landfill capacity isn't a huge issue these days. But the increase in waste is a big problem for Oregon's plan to help curb global warming, which counts on meeting the trash targets.

Cutting consumption and waste helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions because it eliminates the manufacturing, mining, logging and drilling at the front end. The DEQ is considering a strategy that would suggest people opt for smaller houses, avoid cramming their homes with stuff and buy used instead of new, among other things.

Read the rest. Discuss.

  • DanS (unverified)

    "The DEQ is considering a strategy that would suggest people opt for smaller houses, avoid cramming their homes with stuff and buy used instead of new, among other things."

    Wow. Now that's freedom!

  • Eric Stepp (unverified)

    I think the biggest problem with Oregon recycling is simply the inefficient methods that consumers need to follow for recycling.

    Multiple recycle bins, bottle deposits, the bottle/can returns at local grocers, all tend to create a disheartening lack of ease of recycling.

    I would suggest taking the Seattle/Tacoma route. Large blue bins the same as refuse and yard waste, with varying sizes makes recycling quite easy. Tie that into a campaign of linking a decrease of refuse to lowered garbage collection costs. The more one recycles, the less one throws away. The less one throws away, the lower the garbage collection costs.

    Right now, Oregon's recycling plan is tied to an outdated history of recycling innovation and public altruism. That doesn't necessarily cut it anymore.

  • (Show?)

    DanS, are you suggesting our bill of rights has the freedom to consume (to the point of destroying the planet)? What's that, the Saks Fifth Avenue Amendment?

    I focus not so much on the recycling rate, but the overall consumption of resources and amount of trash plus recyclables we produce. Recycling isn't without its environmental impacts.

    We generated 3118 pounds of waste for every Oregonian last year. That's roughly 9 pounds of waste a day.

    Who consumes this?

    I live in a house with four people and we produce one can of trash every month. A neighboring house has two people and produces a can of trash every week. Which means, roughly, that they're creating 8 times as much trash per person.

    So, yes, we need to consume less crap, and it's completely doable without changing our lives dramatically.

    On my end, I could cancel the newspaper subscription and buy a kegerator, so I wasn't consuming so much paper and glass. Of course, until oregonlive makes browsing sense, I can't really afford to cancel the paper.

  • DanS (unverified)


    I'm afraid you've read much to much into my statement.

    I'm opposed to Gov't telling me whether or not I should be new or used. I'm an intelligent human being. I can weigh the personal and global costs of either decision without big brother prodding me to do so.

    Under the "big brother knows best" scenario, we end up in a world where only the top 1/2 of the income distribution gets to live as they please. In essence, the can afford to polute or buy new.

    Albert Gore can afford to fly private jets to his next global warming conference while telling you to take mass transit.

    John Edwards lectures about CO2 emissions while living in a mansion, but has the $$ to purchase carbon offsets to clear his conscience.

    If you can't afford the luxury of polluting, you must obey the dictates of the Gov't.

    That's not freedom! As for your 1 can of garbage per month, congrats, you are part of the solution. Lead by example and persuation, not threat of financial punishment.

  • (Show?)

    DanS, I am a bit confused.

    Gore lives a strict carbon-neutral lifestyle both in his work and private life. In his private life, Gore tries to reduce his emissions as much as possible. He drives a hybrid, flies commercially whenever he can, and purchases green power. In the few instances where work has demanded that he travel privately, he purchases carbon offsets for the emissions.

    Are you suggesting that Gore should not purchase the offsets or that since he does make his carbon footprint as neutral as he can, that somehow makes him a hypocrite to talk about the need for everyone to try and do likewise?

    Do you think that if we all were carbon neutral Gore would have a need to be flying overseas (can't bicycle there after all) to talk about clobal climate change?

    Your rant seems a bit like castigating the police for breaking speeding laws when going after someone speeding. But please don't let any of that get in the way of your unhinged rants about "big bother" (uga booga)

  • (Show?)

    Well, DEQ is "suggesting" people buy used instead of new, not requiring it.

    And I'm sure you're intelligent, but part of the problem is that the costs of the decisions aren't internalized with today's economic system. So individual consumers are facing skewed choices.

    If the government passed a carbon tax, or a cap-and-trade system, then perhaps the costs of new products would become internalized, and we could all choose what worked for us, while not imposing on others.

  • MCT (unverified)

    Start giving people lower garbaage bills for increased recycling. I pay the same garbage rate as my neighbor...who recycles nothing. I recycle everything I can, and compost all veggie matter and yard debris. It's work, a daily chore. However because we do the right thing, it takes two of us 3 weeks or more to fill a 35 gal. garbage can for pick up. It would be great if I could pay for every other week pick up, but that's not an option. It's every week or once a month....and I don't like garbage ripening in my can outside for a month. Attracts rats and racoons and is nasty in the summer especially.

    Apparently the Garbage Nazis would be confused with bi-weekly pick-up, yet they have no trouble at all spotting and/or billing extra for the slightest overage or other infraction they find in my garbage at the curb. You know... one of those dreaded (NOW what did I do wrong?) not so polite pre-printed check the box forms they leave you....along with all the crap they didn't pick up because you f--d up their day. So the next week you're really overflowing & also charged extra. (This is usually only a holiday occurance at our house, extra garbage from extra people. So we consider that form a sort of Christmas greeting from the Garbage Nazis.) Can anyone tell me why that pre-printed form couldn't be kinder & gentler, or at least civil one?

    It's a lot of work recyling...that's why percentages are down. People just don't want to take the time to rinse and remove labels, fold cardboard, etc. There is no reward; it's just extra work. I think a lot of people do not realize all the different things you can recycle...yogurt and cottage cheese containers, bits of aluminum foil...used oil of all kinds.

    Also because of the ridiculous rates for garbage pick up, and the way paychecks are not stretching to meet the cost of living, some people are finding it cheaper to save up a load and go to the dump. Those people are not sorting and recycling...not composting.

    Garbage pick up should be a service included in property taxes, the way it is in many other parts of the country. (we'd have less roadside dumping, too.) As it stands here though, consumers should at least get a lower bill for recycling and filling that bin every week, same for composting...and a higher bill for never bothering to recycle or compost a thing. Better yet, make recycling mandatory. It's easy enough to look at the stuff at the curb and spot if someone isn't putting a filled curby out. And ANYONE can fill a bin with recyclables in a week.

    Also how bout some laws regarding the beginning product packaging?...cut down on that please. Let's start with printer ink cartridge packaging...surely that was designed by psychopaths anyway.

  • (Show?)

    FYI, you don't have to remove labels.

    But yes, it takes a little extra effort. And I agree that an every-other week option makes a lot of sense, or an option where you put out a can if you need to, and don't if you don't. With GPS technology these days it would be pretty easy for a trash hauler to track where they pick up.

  • Gordie (unverified)

    It would sure be helpful if the statistics included who (businesses, governments, households, etc.) was generating the additional waste and/or recycling less.

  • (Show?)

    Gordie is exactly right. The "per person" number is intended to give a sense of scale I guess, but it is misleading, particularly with the focus then being put on household resource use.

    Business, government, non-profit, educational etc. trash in some sense can be attributed to the whole state economy, but require different responses than household trash. It would be interesting to have an analysis of the role of electronic communications, which far from leading to paperless offices have led to more paper I believe, because producing documents and longer ones and duplicates has become much easier.

    There is also a supply side issue. The endless elaboration of packaging is truly annoying, packages within packages within packages. In some instances this can be avoided but in some it really cannot, short of not buying the product.

    Germany has an interesting system that requires companies that produce (and/or sell?) certain kinds of products to take them back when they are worn out and be responsible for their disposal. I don't know much about it, but I think it mainly is consumer durables. This seems to me to have a virtue in restricting companies' ability to externalize costs they create onto the environmental commons or the public fisc, and also to lead to more accurate pricing in terms of fuller accounting of costs. We might use less stuff if we had to pay for its full costs.

  • DanS (unverified)

    "...then perhaps the costs of new products would become internalized, and we could all choose what worked for us, while not imposing on others."

    My point exactly. Once the costs of products rise, those with above average incomes can afford to continue the lifestyle, while the working class must change their lifestyle based on the higher costs that they can't "internalize" within their budgets.

    Polluting or choosing not to be "green" will become a status symbol or affluence, or economic choice.

    I will continue to buy new because for the most part, new is better and safer.

    Would you rather have a new car with state of the art airbags, crumple zones, sophisticated braking systems, etc, or just buy that old Geo Metro that got 45+ miles to the gallon 15 years ago?

    I can afford whatever "internalized" pollution taxes you leftists throw at me. Unfortunately, most of your base (union employees, baristas, the under-motivated, illegals) can't.

  • (Show?)

    Ok, I get it. You think we should subsidize pollution. I think that's a bad idea.

    If we're concerned with the baristas, we can change our income tax system so they afford to buy pollution too, but I still think that subsidizing your fancy new car because you think it's better than a Metro is a bad idea.

  • MCT (unverified)

    whoa! DanS....all I can say is oink oink. snort.

  • Kurt Chapman (unverified)

    We geban recycling in the unenlightened South of 198. Louisville, KY has it right. Garbage collection is part of local taxes and they push a strong effort aimed at recycling. Curbside pick-up is favored over localized bins.

    Perhaps it is time for Oregon to stop congratulating itself over a 20 plus year bottle deposit approach and scrap that in favor of truly effective recycling on a broadscale. Personally, I don't find it worth the effort, or the carbon footprint to drive back to Safeway to turn in some bottles. I include it in my biweekly (free) recycle bin pick-up from Rogue Disposal.

  • Garlynn -- undergroundscience.blogspot.com (unverified)
    <h2>I agree with Eric Stepp, the one-bin approach might do wonders to ease recycling for folks. Also, making curbside composting as available as curbside recycling or curbside trash pick-up would do wonders to remove waste organic matter from the waste-stream. I think Oregon should be able to get up to a 70% diversion rate (composting + recycling vs. trashing) with these measures, if they're made available statewide to all places that currently have curbside trash pick-up.</h2>
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