Chinese restrictions could derail Oregon county’s recycling goals

Lane County is taking a wait-and-see approach to how regulations may affect recycling rates.

December 27, 2017
Edited by Adam Redling

Residents and businesses in Lane County, Oregon, had the state’s highest waste recovery rate in 2016 a recent Department of Environmental Quality showed, The Register-Guard reports.

County residents and area businesses recycled 258,370 tons of material, opposed to the 258,041 tons of waste that was sent to an area landfill in 2016. Lane County was the state’s only county that recycled more waste than it sent to the landfill. The statewide average of material being recycled was 42.6 percent.

While Lane County had set a goal of having 63 percent of its waste recycled by 2025, last year’s Chinese restrictions could impact that, according to a county official.

“The China thing is going hurt our (waste) recovery rate in respect to mixed paper,” Sarah Grimm, a waste reduction specialist with Lane County, says according to the report. “The mixed paper blend—it can be office paper, file folders, things that are now coming out of households — it’s all this paper that’s coated with plastic, and that’s not OK.”

Lane County’s transfer stations have stopped accepting most plastic containers and bags and milk and juice cartons in anticipation of the ban, but the long-term ramifications of how the Chinese restrictions will affect the county’s recycling rates are still unknown.

“It’s very hard to say,” Grimm said according to the report. “I think 2018 will be the crystal ball.”