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OR Bill Would Update State's Recycling System


Monday, February 8, 2021   

SALEM, Ore. -- Oregon lawmakers are considering legislation to clean up the state's recycling system.

House Bill 2065 would require more responsibility of plastics producers for recycling their materials, including covering more of the cost.

Sanne Stienstra, natural resource specialist for the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, said her agency has been in discussions with stakeholders, including plastics producers, on changes to the system for two years.

"We know that recycling helps us reduce waste and use fewer resources, protect the environment," Stienstra observed. "But Oregon's recycling system, it was created decades ago. It wasn't built for what we put in the bin today. So, it's in need of an overhaul."

The legislation also would apply to paper and food ware producers.

While companies have agreed to more responsibility, they're still wary about higher costs, such as paying for products to be dumped in landfills.

Plastic pollution is a major issue worldwide. Researchers estimate 19 to 23 million tons of plastic ended up in the ocean and other aquatic environments in 2016.

House Bill 2065 would also remove the requirement new plastics have the symbol of three arrows chasing each other, which is often thought to mean the product is recyclable. It actually denotes the type of plastic with which it's made.

Stienstra noted the message wouldn't have to be Oregon-specific, but plastics manufacturers need to make the distinction.

"We call it truth-in-labeling standards," Stienstra explained. "So basically, a product or packaging can't say its recyclable unless it's actually recyclable in Oregon."

The year 2018 saw major disruptions to the recycling market, with China refusing to take certain recycled imports from Oregon.

Stienstra added this caused the state and recycling industry to rethink its system.

"It came together because of recycling market volatility, and then, it was an opportunity to look at the full system and consider ways to make improvements that will make it stable and effective for decades to come," Stienstra concluded.

Eight other states, including California and Washington, are also considering legislation to reduce plastic waste.

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