What we know
Oregon is feeling the effects, and feeling them hard. Some recyclers have cut service for certain types of paper and plastic, mainly in the southern part of the state with less population density. As of Nov. 28, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) had granted disposal concurrences to 12 companies. DEQ emphasized that these requests were only granted after "all other options are exhausted" and accounted for about 2% of recyclable material in the state. Companies that had requests granted include Republic Services, multiple Waste Connections subsidiaries, Waste Pro, Rogue Disposal & Recycling, and Pioneer Recycling Services.
The state considers this a temporary measure, and wants to focus on quality control and contamination reduction. DEQ has created communication material to share with all interested parties and is hosting regular stakeholder meetings on the topic. The Oregon Resource Recovery Association has been working closely with DEQ, as well as national groups, and said markets remain particularly challenging for #3-7 plastics.
On Nov. 14, Dave Claugus, vice president of Pioneer Recycling, said that “things have changed for the better a little bit” because some import operations resumed but “December is a whole different question.” He doesn’t expect the new quality requirements to go away and has taken similar steps of slowing down the line and adding labor to address them.
A Nov. 21 story from Oregon Public Broadcasting included stories of companies such as Pendleton Sanitary Services and Rogue getting stuck with material that costs more to recycle than send to local landfills. Rogue's parking lot is reportedly filling up with bales of material. This has even been the case for companies such as Sanitary Disposal that rely more on domestic markets, as reported by the East Oregonian.
The Dalles Chronicle reported on Nov. 29 that Waste Connections subsidiaries Dalles Disposal and Hood River Garbage are asking residents to continue using their recycling carts as normal, even though glass is the only material currently being recovered. The company's district manager said the goal is to keep residents in the habit of recycling so they won't miss a beat when markets improve. Waste Connections is also planning to launch a local website soon with ongoing updates about the situation.
During the first week of December, Oregon continued to feel effects from China. The Coos County Board of Commissioners voted to increase collection rates, as reported by The World, and the Talent City Council took a similar step, as reported by the Mail Tribune. A local nonprofit that had partnered with Rogue to collect old newspapers in drop-off boxes for decades also announced plans to stop following price drops, as reported by News 10. While in a sign of more positive news, the Inlander reported that Denton Plastics hopes to open a new processing facility in the Portland area.