What is the future of recycling in Oregon?

Dozens of recycling thought leaders gathered in Salem to hear about ways to modernize Oregon’s recycling system.

Dozens of Oregon recycling representatives gathered in Salem on Jan. 31 to learn about potential options for a future recycling system in Oregon. 

The information session was part of the multi-year Recycling Steering Committee project, which is convened by DEQ and facilitated by Oregon Consensus, a program of Portland State University and the National Policy Consensus Center. About 175 people attended in person or by webinar, including state, regional and local governments, recycling collection companies, material processors, manufacturers and environmental nonprofit groups.

Oregon’s recycling system was heavily disrupted in 2018 after China and other international markets began restricting their acceptance of many materials. Since then, DEQ and its partners have been working through the steering committee to make recommendations to update and modernize Oregon’s recycling system. The goal is to ensure the recycling system creates benefits for the environment, is strong and adaptable to change, and restores and maintains public trust.

Resource Recycling Systems, the researcher working on behalf of the steering committee, presented results from their in-depth analysis of several potential options for a future recycling system. These options include policy changes, contracts and agreements, which the steering committee will consider for the state’s future system.

In their analysis, the researchers evaluated five potential scenarios, which include a range of government and producer responsibility options for financing and operational control of the system. The scenarios were each evaluated against 16 key “functions” that the steering committee would like to see a future recycling system achieve – such as resiliency, shared responsibility, equitable access, integration and transparency.

Next step: the steering committee will begin seeking consensus in mid-March about a recommendation for a path forward, based on the scenarios offered by Resource Recycling Systems research and input from participants throughout the process. Stay tuned to the project website for updates. The full in-depth evaluation is available online here.

— Sanne Stienstra, material recovery specialist

Published by Oregon Department of Environmental Quality

DEQ’s mission is to be a leader in restoring, maintaining and enhancing the quality of Oregon’s air, land and water.