With all the changes to recycling markets over the past couple of years, many Douglas County residents are wondering what options are left besides tossing everything in the trash.
The landscape for recycling has changed dramatically as Oregon’s traditional market for recyclable plastics and paper — China — began rejecting most loads in 2017 and 2018. Very limited domestic markets exist for those recyclables, and counties and trash haulers across the state have found that rather than being able to sell the recyclables they collect, they now have to pay the few companies that are still willing to take recyclables off their hands.
Despite the changes, there are still some options available to Douglas County residents who want to recycle. We’ve talked with local businesses, the county government and local trash haulers to find out what still can be recycled locally. Here’s what we found.
DOUGLAS COUNTY LANDFILL/TRANSFER STATIONS
Douglas County operates 11 transfer stations. Those stations no longer accept plastics of any kind, milk cartons, cardboard, paper, newspaper or glass for recycling. The county is working on bringing a solution to bring back glass recycling. The transfer stations do accept tin, aluminum, scrap metal, batteries and used motor oil at all transfer stations. For a fee, county residents can drop off yard and wood debris. The Roseburg and Reedsport transfer stations also accept tires, appliances and mattresses for a fee.
Douglas County Public Works Director Scott Adams said the county is always looking for ways to improve its waste management programs.
“Being forced to curtail our historically productive recycling programs has been a difficult course,” he said. “We are hopeful that local, regional and national initiatives to revamp the recycling chain are successful and will bring back recycling options for Douglas County residents soon.”
Local franchise haulers are private companies that contract with the county government to provide curbside trash collection for consumers within specific geographic areas of the county. Customers pay a monthly fee, in an amount approved by the county, for the service. Roseburg Disposal, for example, charges $16 a month for weekly pick up of 40 gallons of trash plus recyclables. Most haulers collect some recyclables, but exactly which types they take vary.
Here’s what trash haulers in your area are collecting:
Roseburg: Roseburg Disposal covers an area that includes the city limits of Roseburg, as well as the Winchester, Garden Valley and Melrose areas, and parts of Dixonville. It does not cover Green. Green residents are included in the Winston Sanitary Service’s boundaries.
Roseburg Disposal currently accepts corrugated cardboard, aluminum, glass, tin and used motor oil. Office manager Jamie Stewart said the glass recycling is only expected to last approximately six more months, since the company accepting the glass is using it for stream cleanup and won’t need it once the project is completed. The company does not accept plastics or mixed paper for recycling.
North County: Sutherlin Sanitary covers an area from Scottsburg to Diamond Lake and Wilbur to Curtin, and includes Sutherlin, Oakland, Elkton, Yoncalla, Drain, Rice Hill and Glide. The company offers curbside recycling only to customers within Sutherlin city limits. However, it also operates a recycling depot at 1066 S. Calapooia St. in Sutherlin that accepts dropped off recyclables from all comers regardless of residence.
At the depot, Sutherlin Sanitary collects corrugated cardboard; mixed paper including office paper, magazines, mail, cereal box type cardboard and paperback books; newspaper; tin and aluminum. Glass and plastic are not accepted.
Hours are from 7 a.m. to noon, Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday.
In the back, Monday through Friday, the depot also takes computers, monitors, TVs, printers and mice. There’s also a scrap metal box in back. Permission from the office is necessary to recycle those items.
Plastics are no longer accepted at the depot because when the company was taking plastics labeled 1 to 2, people would put plastics labeled 3 to 7 in the bin, along with plastic bags and other items the company didn’t have a place to recycle.
Sutherlin residents with curbside pickup can still recycle plastics labeled 1 and 2. Those plastics are taken up to Springfield, where Sutherlin Sanitary actually pays to drop them off.
Operations Manager Grant Fahey said the company continues to recycle anyway because that’s what the customers want.
“It would be the end of the world if you said you were going to take away all recycling. People would just lose their minds, and it would be a very bad day. So we do as much as we can within reason for how much it costs, and do the best we can,” Fahey said.
South County: South Umpqua Disposal serves Myrtle Creek, Tri-City, Canyonville, Riddle, Tiller and Days Creek.
It accepts flattened cardboard boxes, paper and tin and aluminum cans as well as plastics marked 1 or 2. The company takes the plastics up to International Paper in Springfield.
Office Manager Lauren Whitmore said South Umpqua also pays to offload its recyclables, rather than being paid for them. She said it may seem a little crazy, but the company is optimistic the market will turn around and it will be able to sell them in the future.
Winston Sanitary Service covers Winston, Dillard, Green, Lookingglass and the Tenmile area. Winston Sanitary accepts three types of recyclables. Those include corrugated cardboard that's been flattened, tin and aluminum cans with labels and lids removed, and newspaper.
Camas Valley Disposal is a small company that offers trash pickup service to homes from Camas Valley to the Coos County line, Olalla, Ireland and Benedict Roads, and the Coos Bay Wagon Road almost to the Lookingglass Store. They don’t offer curbside recycling boxes, although they will take well-rinsed milk jugs, glass or a battery once in a while if it is separated and set next to the can. Generally speaking, they don’t recycle plastics, mixed paper or cardboard.
Glendale and Reedsport: Glendale, Azalea, Winchester Bay, Gardiner and Reedsport are covered by Southern Oregon Sanitation, which also operates in Grants Pass.
Southern Oregon Sanitation accepts corrugated cardboard, milk jug style bottles that are white or clear, newspapers and tin cans. Additionally, Reedsport accepts plastic bottleneck containers labeled 1 or 2.
Plastic bags: Plastic bags may be recycled at local grocery stores including Fred Meyer, Albertson’s and Safeway.
Newspaper: The News-Review accepts copies of its own newspapers for recycling. Remove rubber bands and don’t leave them in plastic bags. The News-Review is located at 345 NE Winchester St., Roseburg.
Drink bottles: The BottleDrop Roseburg Redemption Center at 740 NE Garden Valley Blvd. refunds 10 cents for beverage containers including soda cans and bottles covered under the Oregon bottle deposit law.
Clothing: Clothing and other household items such as shoes, toys, electronics, pots and pans can be dropped off at any Sunrise Enterprises location. What they can’t resell in their stores, they can sell to buyers who will recycle them.
CLEAN UP YOUR ACT:
Sometimes the best way to reduce garbage is to avoid making it in the first place. Adams said the county also encourages citizens to “practice the other two R’s in the waste management process” — reduce and recycle.
“Think ‘reduce’ by cutting back on the amount of packaging, food and containers you buy and discard. Think ‘reuse’ by finding a new way to repurpose items, so that you don’t have to throw them out,” he said.
Tips for reducing include buying in bulk, taking lunches to work in reusable containers, shopping in second-hand stores, repairing items instead of replacing them and shopping with reusable bags.
Also, Adams said it’s important to think about clean recycling.
The reason China rejected our recyclables in the first place is because they were sick of receiving “dirty” recyclables. The county and local trash haulers suggested several tips for ensuring the items you’re recycling actually get recycled, instead of thrown away. Be sure what you’re turning in doesn’t contain food waste. Remove lids from cans and bottles and don’t put the lids in the recycling. If your hauler accepts type 1 or 2 plastic recyclables, don’t turn in plastic labeled other numbers and don’t turn in plastic bags, clamshell food containers or diapers. Having the wrong types of plastic mixed together makes a shipment “dirty.” Never turn in recyclables like cans or newspaper inside plastic bags either. That also makes a load “dirty.”