Image of recyclable waste
Anna Reed/Statesman Journal

The shutting of the recycling pipeline to China put a serious dent in recycling efforts on this side of the Pacific.  Where we could once bale up our recyclables and ship them overseas, we're now stuck with them, since China won't take them. 

As the group Environment Oregon points out, that means recycling efforts are backsliding; fewer people are recycling or able to, and more of our stuff ends up in landfills, which recycling was supposed to prevent. 

Image of recyclable waste
Anna Reed/Statesman Journal

Since China announced it would no longer accept America's recyclables, the region's waste management services have been scrambling to find a new route for the recyclables they collect. Unfortunately, one route for the stuff we used to recycle runs straight to the landfill.

Southern Oregon Sanitation, which serves Josephone County and parts of Jackson County, is taking a step forward by constructing a new recycling depot and processing facility, which it plans to open in 2020.

Recycling changed for a lot of us last year, when China--which had accepted many of our recyclables--stopped doing so. 

U.S. communities are still looking for ways to fill some of the gaps created in the recycling system.  In Klamath County, Reach, Inc. is stepping up. 

Reach provides training and work to people with barriers to employment.  And it is adding some recycling functions to its work in wood products. 


China threw a curveball, and now we're throwing a lot of "recyclables" into landfills. 

We used to ship many recycled materials to China, but the country complained about too many contaminated loads, and stopped taking them.  That produced changes in how curbside recycling is handled in many American communities. 

The City of Eureka just got involved, with a new glass recycling program that does not charge residents for the service. 

John Staggart,, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Frustration with recycling remains elevated in the region.  China's decision to stop taking most American recyclables changed what some recyclers will accept at the curb. 

But the recycling spirit remains strong and committed.  Witness Klamath Works, which got a materials management grant from Oregon's Department of Environmental Quality to aid in its work recycling mattresses. 


There's a certain sense of virtue that comes from flinging an item into a recycle bin.  "At least I'm not throwing it away," you might think. 

But even before China clamped down on the recyclable materials it would accept, we were lagging behind other countries in recycling.  About 34% of our materials get recycled, a much lower rate than, for example, Germany's 65%. 

Why don't we recycle more?  Confusion is one reason, suggests Beth Porter.  She runs a website on recycling and just put out a book, Reduce, Reuse, Reimagine: Sorting Out the Recycling System


It's getting rough out there at the curb.  Placing our trash and recycle bins out for collection is a bit more labor-intensive in some communities. 

Rogue Disposal & Recycling, which serves Medford and surrounding communities, had to change the items it would accept in recycling, now that China has sharply reduced the materials it will accept. 

Laura Leebrick from Rogue joins us to talk about the challenges of recycling with new rules. 

Also on the panel: Laura McKaughan from the Northern California Recycling Association, Sarah Grimm from Lane County Public Works and Brian Fuller from Oregon's Department of Environmental Quality

European Parliament

Those trips to recycle bottles in Oregon could get heavier and more lucrative in the New Year.  Oregon's half-century-old bottle law is changing once again.

Ropable, Public Domain,

Reduce, reuse, recycle.  We're pretty well along in the third of those, but not so organized on the first two. 

Rogue Valley Habitat for Humanity wants to focus on the second one: reuse.  Its "ReStore" in Medford and a sister store in White City already sell items for home and construction that have been used already. 

Now there's a plan to go further into repairing items for re-sale, to cut down on the financial and environmental costs of obtaining new raw materials for manufacturing. 

Oobspace, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Maybe you never knew where the stuff from your recycled bin ended up... until the recent news from China. 

China has taken a lot of stuff off the hands of other countries, including nearly half the plastic waste created by the rest of the world. 

Now the Beijing government says too much of the waste was dirty and/or hazardous, and it is closing the scrap window for many items. 

That creates issues for recyclers, like Rogue Disposal & Recycling, and regulators, like the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality

Don Ryan/AP

March figures to be a very slow month at the bottle returns in Oregon.  Because the first day of April, the money paid for each bottle doubles, from a nickel to a dime. 

It's a change in Oregon law that requires more money to be paid per container if the level of container recycling falls below 80 percent for two years running. 

It did, so now the nickel returns become dime returns. 

Oregon Beverage Recycling Cooperative runs centers all over the state; you hear how the system works. 

Oobspace, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Younger people--say 25 and under--probably can't remember a time without recycle bins next to the trash cans. 

The rest of us have had to get used to figuring out what goes in which bin.  The Earth is worth it, right? 

Over the years changes have come to recycling and our approach to it.  Rogue Disposal and Recycling in Medford rolls with the changes, as do Jackson County Master Recyclers

And the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality gets a piece of this puzzle as well. 

Food Waste Recycling Trial Planned In Eugene

Jul 12, 2016
City of Eugene

Maybe you've had one of those conversations while helping a friend prepare a meal: "do you compost?" 

Not everybody saves food scraps for composting.  And Eugene will soon start a trial run for the people who don't: curbside food waste pickup. 

1500 households will be included in the now business-only "Love Food Not Waste" program. 

VENTSday: Homeless Laws + Recycling Ease

Jul 12, 2016
Lulu Vision

Our VENTSday segment is meant to put anybody and everybody on the air with cogent comments about topics in the news.  But not everybody has easy access. 

So this week, in talking about appropriate laws, regulations, and supports for homeless, we hit the streets. 

Conversations with a handful of homeless people in Ashland are meant to spur further discussion from you, live at 800-838-3760 or

Our alternate topic this week--and our survey--follows our conversation about curbside food waste recycling: what do you need to recycle more? 

VENTSday is a once-a-week chance to vent on news topics. 

Learning Recycling From A Master

Feb 26, 2016

We do right by the planet when we don't chuck all of our refuse in the trash can. 

But there's certainly a level of complexity to recycling.  Can pizza boxes be recycled with all that cheese stuck to them? 

That's one question well within the domain of the Master Recyclers

Just as Master Gardeners know the tips and tricks of working the soil, Master Recyclers know the practices of keeping our refuse out of the landfill. 

Where CFLs Go When They Die

Jul 22, 2014

We can certainly save a bunch of energy and money using modern light bulbs. 

They are uniformly more efficient than the old incandescent bulbs. 

And--in theory, anyway--they last long enough to cover the addition upfront expense of buying them. 

But the compact fluorescent bulbs (CFL) contain some toxic substances that require more attention to disposal. 

E-waste Reuse And Recycling On The Rise

Apr 14, 2014
Curtis Palmer/Wikimedia

The explosion of electronic devices means a constant churn in many households: replace the older TV/computer monitor/cell phone with a new one. 

Then what to do with the old one? 

That question frequently confounds, but there are places capable of reusing and/or recycling electronic devices. 


From memories to mulch… our Christmas trees can live on, in a sense, once we're done with them. 

In many communities, the beginning of the year is punctuated by visits from the Boy Scouts and other groups collecting Christmas trees for a variety of uses, back outdoors where they came from. 

A Push To Recycle (More) Plastic

Sep 23, 2013
European Parliament

A few minutes on the lips, and then… where?

Where does that plastic bottle go when you're done with it?  Often to a landfill, even in a recycling-heavy state like Oregon.