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DEQ: Oregonians recycling a bit more waste


In 2017, Oregon recovered 2,327,645 tons of waste, or 42.8 percent of all waste generated, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality’s 2017 Oregon Material Recovery and Waste Generation Report shows, the agency said Wednesday.

The annual report tracks the amount of waste that Oregonians generate, dispose of and recover through recycling, composting or incineration for energy recovery.

While the amount of recovered waste marks a slight uptick from the 42.2 percent recovery rate in 2016, it falls short of the state’s goal of 52 percent recovery by 2020.

“The rise in generation was likely the result of a busy economy with abundant construction activity and purchasing of consumer goods, leading to increased generation and recovery of materials such as scrap metal and cardboard,” says Peter Spendelow, waste reduction specialist at DEQ. “Plastic and glass containers and aluminum all showed increased recovery in 2017 too, probably due to doubling the refund value of beverage containers to 10 cents in April 2017.”

In 2017, Oregonians generated 5,434,333 tons of waste, up 2.7 percent from 2016. A total of 3,106,688 tons of waste was disposed of in landfills and incinerators, a 1.8 percent increase from 2016. Although waste generation has increased steadily since 2010, total generation in 2017 was still 295,546 tons less than it was at its peak in 2006.

Other key findings include:

— The total amount of recovered metals increased by nearly 13 percent in 2017 compared to a 4 percent decrease from 2015 to 2016.
— Total tons of paper fibers recycled increased by nearly 6 percent from 2016, after a nearly 8 percent decrease the previous year. (The tonnage increase was in cardboard recovery, while other paper fibers continues to decline).
— Total plastics recycling decreased by more than 2 percent in 2017 as compared to 2016.
— Container glass recovery increased over 10 percent in 2017 as compared to 2016.
— Electronics recovery continued its decline, and decreases 15 percent from 2016.
— Total recovery of organics (which includes wood waste, yard debris, food waste and animal waste/grease) decreased less than 1 percent in 2017 compared to a nearly 10 percent decrease in 2016.

Compared to 2016, in 2017:

— The recycling of scrap metal increased by more than 14 percent, with higher scrap metal prices in 2017 plus increased construction and other economic activity
— Cardboard tons recycled increased by 15 percent, while tons of printing, writing and other paper decreased by nearly 7 percent. Increased sales and other economic activity leads to an increase in use of paper packaging, while printing and writing paper use continues to decline with increased use of electronic media.
— Although beverage bottle recycling increased due to the increased bottle refund value, recycling of other plastics decreased, probably related to low prices and market disruption cause by importation restrictions and bans on recycled plastic by China, which had been by far the largest importer of plastics for recycling in the world.
— Electronic recycling decreased by 15 percent, continuing a trend as older, heavier monitors and TVs are replaced by lighter-weight devices
— Wood waste recovery increased by nearly 4 percent, but is still more than 40 percent lower than the peak recovery tonnage in 2006. Closure of large paper mills that used to burn waste wood as fuel has substantially decreased the opportunities for recovery wood.

Energy savings and greenhouse gas reductions linked to recycling, composting and energy recovery in 2017 were substantial. Energy savings associated with these activities were 31 trillion British thermal units, and reductions in greenhouse gas emissions were 3.3 million metric tons of CO2 equivalents. Recycling, rather than composting or energy recovery, was the source of most of these benefits.

“Recycling and composting conserves resources, saves energy and reduces pollution such as greenhouse gas emissions,” Spendelow added. “Proper management of materials at the end of their life makes a big difference, but it’s important to remember that preventing waste from happening in the first place and reusing what we have is the best way to protect the environment.”

This is DEQ’s 26th annual report on the state of municipal post-consumer (residential and commercial) material recovery and waste generation in Oregon. The full report is available here:…

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