This article appears in the February 15, 2018, edition of Marion County TODAY e-newsletter
Marion County has a long history as a state and national leader in waste reduction and recycling. 2017, however, has proven a challenge not only for Oregon, but much of the West Coast. As a whole, the West Coast has depended on China to buy the lion's share of our 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 – you know, all the stuff you "wish" was recyclable, but really isn't.
China has since announced strict requirements on importation of all post-consumer plastic and unsorted paper and other materials. The ban has created a major disruption in recycling and currently there is no excess capacity in recycling markets worldwide to absorb the material China is no longer accepting. That leaves Marion County, and other jurisdictions, with a lot of material and few markets. The county is working closely with local garbage haulers, recyclers, and the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality on potential solutions. This is a dynamic issue and changes to county recycling programs will likely be announced in the near future. Watch our website for updates and visit www.mcrecycles.net for the Marion County Recycle Guide.
In the meantime, residents and businesses can help by reducing and reusing first, then ensuring that mixed recyclables are clean and free from trash. Common blue bin contaminants in the mixed recycling include glass, plastic bags, hoses and ropes, diapers, milk cartons, and clothing or other textiles.
If you want to kick it up notch, start a green team at your workplace and consider EarthWISE certification. The program recognizes businesses that have made a commitment to environmentally friendly practices and provides tools and resources for continued improvement. Become a Master Recycler and work within your own community to train others and create programs and projects around waste reduction and recycling.
You can also take the Save the Food pledge. Did you know that the average family throws away one-fourth of the food they purchase? There are simple strategies to help you plan ahead, shop smart, prep early, and properly store food to save time and money. In many Marion County cities, including Salem, Keizer, and Woodburn, food waste is acceptable in your yard debris cart for composting.
Making a difference doesn't have to be complicated. 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.
For more information about Marion County's waste reduction and recycling programs, contact Environmental Services at (503) 588-5169 or email EnvironmentalServices@co.marion.or.us.