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Douglas County suspends cardboard recycling due to recycle bin contamination

(File photo/SBG)

ROSEBURG, Ore. -- Douglas County's Solid Waste Division has been forced to suspend cardboard recycling due to contamination of recycling bins, the county said this week.

"It is unfortunate, but the Roseburg Transfer Station, a division of Douglas County Solid Waste, has to suspend its corrugated cardboard recycling program effective Sunday, August 19, 2018, at the end of the day," the county said in a news release. "The suspension is a result of an excessive amount of contaminates being placed in the cardboard recycling bin by citizens."

Up until now, Douglas County was able to keep corrugated cardboard recycling at the Roseburg Transfer Station, as long as the cardboard brought to the facility was clean, flattened and free of debris.

Because of the contamination, Douglas County Solid Waste personnel have had to spend 4-6 hours per day sorting and removing soiled or wet cardboard, food, diapers, tobacco products, mail and other debris from the bin, the county reports.

"Douglas County does not have a sorting facility or a budget for the increased workload required to clean up the cardboard in order for it to be accepted by our recycling vendor," the county said. "Therefore, they are forced to suspend cardboard recycling until a cleaner and more cost effective solution can be found. Douglas County, along with local and regional governments, waste disposal companies, processors and industry representatives will continue to work together to find viable alternatives to the recycling issues facing not only Douglas County, but the nation."

According to the county's news release, contamination in the recycling stream is the primary reason why the U.S. is experiencing the export bans and restrictions on recycling. According to recent waste analysis studies, the average contamination rate sits at around 25%. That means that roughly 1 in 4 items being placed in a recycling container is not recyclable.

"Recycling contamination has a direct impact on the quality of recyclables entering the recycling markets," the county said. "For example, when foods or liquids are placed in a recycling container they will ultimately saturate tons and tons of otherwise good quality cardboard. When cardboard loses its quality, it also loses its ability to be recycled. It becomes trash. The higher the recycling contamination, the less we can recycle – that is the challenge we are all facing, and it is a global problem."

Not only does contamination add a significant cost increase to the recycling process, the county said, the market for selling recycled cardboard and other products have reached an all time low. Low prices and lack of demand is making it difficult for businesses to justify staying in the recycling trade.

"Douglas County residents have a role to play in helping to restore recycling efforts," the county said. "It all boils down to recycling the 'Right Items, the Right Way.' By working together, we can begin the long journey of returning recycling programs to Douglas County. We are asking for the public’s help to get us there!"

Here are some recycling tips Douglas County is passing along to citizens:

  1. Only recycle those items that are accepted at that facility or waste management company.
  2. Keep food and liquids out of your recycling.
  3. Keep plastic bags out of your recycling.
  4. Keep tobacco products, diapers and mail out of your recycling.
  5. Keep dangerous items out of recycling, like propane tanks, needles and electronics. These items can injure employees or start a fire.
  6. Remember to be patient and kind to employees in all areas of waste management.

The Douglas County Landfill and Transfer Stations will continue to accept tin, aluminum, oil, batteries and yard/wood debris for recycling (some items are subject to a nominal fee for recycling. Inquire at your local facility).

If you have curbside or business pick-up, check with your local waste disposal company for their current recycling list.

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