Jackson County ranked ninth best out of Oregon's 36 counties when it came to recycling in 2011, according to a report from the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality.
The report shows Jackson County recycled or reused about 47.6 percent of its garbage. Of the 239,754 tons of garbage Jackson County generated last year, 99,781 tons were sorted out for recycling and reuse.
Denise Barnes, recycling coordinator for Rogue Disposal & Recycling, said she is proud of Jackson County's numbers and wants the area to continue improving.
waste recovery rates in 2011
County Tons generated Tons recovered Recovery Rate*
Lane: 485,043 269,315 61.5 percent
Marion: 432,027 236,695 60.8 percent
Metro: 2,095,613 1,117,844 59.3 percent
Linn: 155,221 76,302 55.2 percent
Josephine: 96,301 47,171 55 percent
Polk: 72,343 34,526 49.7 percent
Douglas: 129,131 55,416 48.9 percent
Coos: 76,475 36,489 47.7 percent
Jackson: 239,754 99,781 47.6 percent
Yamhill: 107,896 43,383 46.2 percent
Statewide: 4.7 million 2.3 million 52.3 percent
* Rates of recovery statewide and for Metro, Marion, Linn, Lane, Jackson, Josephine and Douglas counties included six additional percentage points in recovery credits, obtained through programs in waste prevention, home composting and reuse. Polk County had two additional percentage points from the credits, and Coos County had no recovery credits.
"I feel like we've kind of picked the low-hanging fruit at this point," Barnes said. "Now we have to reach a little higher."
The 139,973 tons that wasn't recycled went into landfills, which was the fifth-highest tonnage in the state. That number has declined each year since 2007, when the county buried 184,062 tons.
"We've seen that number steadily decline because it is greatly affected by our area's construction (and) remodeling business, and also our consumerism," Barnes said. "The economy has actually helped."
The county exceeded its goal of 40 percent recovery, which was set in 2009 when state legislation called for a reduction in waste disposal rates.
"We've exceeded 40 percent a couple years in a row now," Barnes said.
Barnes said the inclusion of glass on the list of materials accepted in commingled recycling containers helped the 2011 rate, and she says more improvements can be made. The lids on butter tubs, for example, cannot be recycled, even though the tubs can be. Because the the lids are flat, they can get mixed into materials such as newspapers and contaminate the batch.
"Technology is still improving. The commingled recycling is still in its infancy," Barnes said. "I see it evolving."
Rogue Disposal officials said county residents can take additional steps to boost the recovery rate.
Barnes said the biggest problem she sees is that people put materials in commingle bins they shouldn't, such as plastic shopping bags, which can contaminate a whole shipment.
"They end up at the sort facility getting tangled up in all those moving parts," Barnes said. "That is a huge contamination."
Two Southern Oregon counties, Josephine and Douglas, had better recycling rates than Jackson County, at 55 percent and 48.9 percent, respectively.
Lane County had the highest recovery rate in the state, recycling 61.5 percent of its 485,043 tons of garbage.
Wheeler County's 12.9 percent recovery rate — 61.6 tons of 479.1 tons — was the lowest.
Statewide, Oregon recovered 52.3 percent of its trash, recycling 2.3 million tons of 4.74 million tons of trash. That's the highest recovery rate since the survey began in 1992, the report says.
Reach reporter Ryan Pfeilat 541-776-4468 or firstname.lastname@example.org.