Recycling crisis hits Douglas County

(MGN Online image)

ROSEBURG, Ore. – Douglas County officials say they're working to address issues concerning recycling, and changes to recycling systems could be on the way.

Officials with Douglas County say, as a whole, the West Coast has depended on China to buy the bulk of recovered materials including paper, plastics, metals, and more. However, a significant amount of the recycled material China was getting was contaminated with food waste, garbage, and other unusable materials from "wishful recycling," all the stuff people “wish” was recyclable, but really isn’t.

China has since announced strict requirements on importation of all post-consumer plastic, unsorted paper, and other materials, the county reported in a news release, adding the ban has created a major disruption in recycling, and there's currently no excess capacity in recycling markets worldwide to absorb the material China is no longer accepting.

This leaves Douglas County and other jurisdictions with a lot of material and few markets, the county says. The county is working closely with local garbage haulers, recyclers, and the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) on potential solutions, as well as next steps to insure a successful recycling program, and extend the life of the local landfill. "This is a dynamic issue, and changes to county recycling programs will likely be announced in the near future," the county says.

According to the Oregon DEQ: “Given the major market disruption this is causing, DEQ and its partners are preparing for different possibilities and developing strategies to maintain recycling collection, and processing where possible, as we update those systems to recycle more effectively in the future.”

Currently, Douglas County Public Works and all trash haulers within the county are having weekly meetings to address the issue. Douglas County Public Work Director Scott Adams said: “We’re making sure that every stakeholder is at the table working on alternatives, so we can all be a part of tackling this issue head on.”

"Making a difference doesn’t have to be complicated," the county said in the news release. "Anyone can pack groceries home in reusable bags, drink from a reusable water bottle, bring your own insulated tumbler to your favorite coffee shop, and more. It’s been said that, 'Recycling takes a little effort on your part, but it makes a big difference to the world.' And it’s true."

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