Oregon Trial

Sometimes working together isn't the best option. Stakeholders in Oregon's commingled recycling program learned this after a failed attempt to regionalize program standards with other states in an effort to decrease materials contamination and improve efficiency.

Instead, in January, Oregon stakeholders formed the Oregon Commingled Recycling System Improvement Project, which includes representatives from local and state government as well as producers, processors and end users of recyclables. Meetings are open to the public and are held at least once a month in Portland, Ore.

In 2007, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency began an initiative in its Region 10 states — Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington — to investigate commingled recycling separation systems and develop standards for collection and operations.

“A number of people were concerned with standards being done on a regional basis because of differing state laws and standards,” says Peter Spendelow, solid waste policy analyst for the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, who claims one of the major stumbling blocks to coming up with regionalized standards was the inclusion of glass in some states' commingled recycling programs. “Therefore the states agreed to [come up with] their own.”

At the project's second meeting in February, stakeholders expressed specific concerns that they felt should be addressed by the new standards. Among these were a desire for sortable, consistent and acceptable inputs at a reasonable cost for use in end products; maintaining public confidence that collected materials actually get recycled; minimizing sorting demands on customers; meeting the changing needs of customers and regulators; and coming up with standards that are economically feasible for all stakeholders.