A report from the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality shows the state’s recycling rate in 2017 was 42.8 percent, slightly better than the previous year.
Doubling of the bottle deposit to 10 cents was a booster for the state’s recycling rate. But recycling had setbacks, too, including the closure of local paper mills that bought recycled paper and China deciding to cut off recycling imports from the United States.
Glass and paper recycling ticked up, while plastic, electronic and organic waste recycling declined between 2016 and 2017.
The annual report shows Oregon is still a long way from its recycling goal of 52 percent by 2020.
“Honestly, we’re not going to make it,” said Peter Spendelow, a waste reduction specialist with the Department of Environmental Quality. “When we set that goal, which was just a few years ago, we were not anticipating that we would lose the huge wood markets. And we also weren’t anticipating the China crisis.”
In response to China’s 2017 announcement it would no longer take U.S. exported recyclables, local waste management companies started to scale back. Many, including Recology Western Oregon, which serves the North Coast, also raised garbage rates.
Overall, the report found that Lane County had the best recycling rate in the state in 2017 at 52.8 percent, followed by the Portland metro area and Marion County. In Clatsop County, the rate was 29.5 percent.
At the other end of the spectrum was scantly-populated Lake County, which recycled slightly more than 9 percent of the total waste it created.
Spendelow said the state has hired a contractor to take a big-picture look at how Oregon recycles. The aim is to make the system more resilient to these kinds of market fluctuations.