The news that China will halt imports of recycled materials is a setback for Oregon's efforts to keep solid waste out of landfills, but recycling is only one element of the state's waste-reduction strategy. Oregonians can continue to help shrink the waste stream in other ways.
Recycling efforts have come a long way in the past few decades. Residents can leave their recyclable materials bin at the curb and metal, glass, plastic, paper and cardboard will be whisked to a sorting facility, bundled and shipped off to be made into new packaging material and other products.
For years, the market for recycled materials has been the biggest obstacle. Most recently, China has been accepting huge quantities of material, especially from the West Coast.
But China has announced it will stop importing many recycled materials, instead developing its own recycling efforts and limiting shipments contaminated with non-recyclable materials such as plastic grocery bags and Styrofoam.
What does this mean for consumers? For now, not much — commingled recycling still will be picked up, although disposal companies may have to send some of it to landfills.
The state's mantra for solid waste is Reduce, Reuse and Recycle — in that order. So pay attention to what you purchase and reuse containers when possible.
Finally, be more careful about what goes in the recycling bin. Items that should not go in your commingled bin include plastic bags, lids and bottle caps, frozen food boxes and paper plates and cups.