What you can recycle in Deschutes County

These items are free to recycle and can be mixed together in your commingle bin or dropped off at any disposal site.

Aluminum/Tin

Clean cans, jar lids and foil. No need to flatten. No dirty or rusty cans, paint or aerosol cans.

Magazines, Catalogs, Newspapers

Anything that comes in the newspaper can be recycled.

Mixed Paper

Junk mail, paper, envelopes, white and colored paper, computer paper, wrapping paper (no foil or ribbon), shredded paper (strips only, no cross cut or confetti).

Paper bags

Can be recycled.

Paperboard

Cereal, cracker, shoe boxes, soda and beer cartons, paper egg cartons, paper towel tubes.

Plastic Bottles/Tubs

6 ounces or larger (e.g., yogurt containers, butter tubs, sour cream, cottage cheese containers). Nursery plant pots 4 inches or larger, plastic buckets 5 gallons or less, milk jugs-not flattened.

A policy change in China at the beginning of 2018 has made it more difficult — and more costly — for recycling companies to transport and process paper and plastic in Oregon.

While Bend and Deschutes County haven’t yet seen changes like those enacted in Salem and Eugene, the region’s recycling community is still struggling with the higher costs.

“Things aren’t different in Central Oregon,” said Kristan Mitchell, executive director of the Oregon Refuse and Recycling Association.

Last summer, China, which has long been a destination for a lot of the United States’ mixed recycling, announced it would no longer import post-consumer plastics or mixed paper, starting in 2018. Additionally, the country restricted how much contamination it would accept in imported recyclables.

For many Oregon cities and counties, it was a huge blow, one that forced massive changes in what material gets recycled and where it ends up, according to Peter Spendelow, recycling specialist for the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality.

“When you have a major player like China drop out, it sends shock waves through the industry,” Spendelow said.

Mitchell said recycling companies have scrambled for alternate markets, both foreign and domestic, that could fill China’s massive shoes. Collectors in the Pacific Northwest dealt with a backlog of previously recyclable material that they weren’t able to market. Mitchell said the cost of transporting and processing recyclables has risen across Oregon, forcing cities and counties to make a difficult choice: dispose of previously recyclable material in a landfill, alter their rules about what can and can’t be recycled or dramatically raise the cost of picking up recyclables on the curb.

“We kind of feel like the canary in the coal mine on this,” Mitchell said.

Timm Schimke, director of Knott Landfill in Bend, said Deschutes County’s recycling community is seeing the higher costs but is still finding markets for its recyclables.

Brad Bailey, president of Bend Garbage & Recycling, which handles garbage and recycling pickup on Bend’s north side, echoed that, saying costs have doubled or tripled. All of the recycled material is still being recycled — just not in China, he said.

In other parts of the state, the changes are hard to ignore. In March, Marion County, following guidelines from the Oregon Refuse and Recycling Association, restricted the list of material allowed in commingled recycling, removing shredded paper, certain types of plastic and other materials from the list, according to Jolene Kelley, spokeswoman for Marion County. A month later, Eugene approved a similarly shortened list.

Kelley added that in May, garbage and recycling haulers in Marion County revived a fine — which has been on the books for years but was rarely employed — for people who recycle incorrectly, as a response to changing market conditions.

The changes have challenged haulers in parts of Central Oregon as well. In February, Prineville Disposal, a garbage hauler based in Crook County, received permission from the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality to dispose of material that had once been recycled. Steve Holliday, the owner of Prineville Disposal, said the market conditions made it much more expensive to transport material across the state to be sorted. Before the changes in China, Holliday said the franchise typically made a small profit on transporting tons of recycling. By the start of the year, however, it cost $150 to move the material, with no guarantee that it would be recycled when it gets there.

“Everybody’s in the same boat,” Holliday said. “Nobody wants to throw (the material) away.”

So far, Bend Garbage and other Deschutes County haulers have been able to offset the cost by streamlining their businesses, though Bailey acknowledged that rates could be raised down the road if it can’t find new markets.

“We’re trying to be as efficient as we can about this,” Bailey said.

Schimke said Deschutes County would be reluctant to change its recycling requirements, due to the challenge of re-training people on what belongs in the blue curbside bins. He added that the county is not looking to emulate the fines seen in Marion County.

“That would be difficult to sell here,” Schimke said.

Long-term, Spendelow said he hopes more domestic mills begin to process recyclables. That, along with less trash mixed in with commingled recycling, can help offset the loss of China as a market. Still, Spendelow said more material gets produced during the summer and holiday season, and it remains to be seen whether Oregon recyclers can find markets for that material.

“We are cognizant that there could be future problems,” Spendelow said. “I’m optimistic that there won’t be.”

— Reporter: 541-617-7818, shamway@bendbulletin.com

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