▶️ America Recycles Day shines light on local recovery efforts

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Cans, cardboard and paper are all things you might expect to find at a recycling center, but plenty of those materials still wind up in the landfill every year in Central Oregon. 

Nov. 15 was America Recycles Day, meant to raise awareness about what people can do to recycle properly.

In 2019, Oregon recycled almost 2.5 million tons of material, according to the most recent data from the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality.

In Deschutes and Crook counties, Republic Services takes recycling bins from curbs to a facility in Bend.

There, they pack it into 2,000 pound bales to be shipped to a processor in the Portland Metro area.

“At that point that’s where they will sort out all the different recyclable materials and send it to the end markets for the paper, for the aluminum, for the plastics,” Republic Services Municipal Manager Susan Baker said.

She said Central Oregonians typically do a good job of separating materials, but there are some exceptions. 

“Probably some of the top contaminants we see are plastic bags,” she said. “We try to message out to put the recycling loose into the commingle cart and not put them in plastic bags, and surprisingly we still see a lot of styrofoam.”

Deschutes County alone recycled more than 84,000 tons of material in 2019, but roughly 70% of materials that could have been recycled were thrown in the trash.

Deschutes County Department of Solid Waste Interim Director Chad Centola said that with all the construction going on in the county, wood waste is a major recyclable material that ends up in Knott Landfill.

“Cardboard and paper products are pretty obvious out there as well,” he said.

The overall lack of recycle bins is a likely culprit. 

“If you look at a retail establishment, they just don’t have the room necessarily to have bin for something like cardboard or other recyclables,” Centola said.

“Another good examples is multi-family homes, apartments, condominiums. Sometimes those don’t have the accommodations to have multiple bins.” 

There is plenty of information available for those who want to make a change. 

“I think the key thing is to look at the literature their trash collector provides, or go to our website,” Centola said. “The information is pretty straightforward if people take the time to look at it.” 

“It’s important to follow what programs are going on in your local markets,” Baker said. “For here, our customers can go to republicservices.com/centraloregon and get a recycling guide.”

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