Trash Talk

Oregon Passes Recycling Modernization Act

(reprinted) by Alissa Oliverson (SWAC Chair), June 2021

Trash Talk Series from Sustainable Klamath, Solid Waste Action Committee (SWAC)

In February, we highlighted proposed Senate Bill 582: The Plastic Pollution and Recycling Modernization Act. This month, we bring you an exciting update on this bill: it passed! Story from Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ)

On Friday, June 25th, the Oregon Legislature passed the Plastic Pollution and Recycling Modernization Act (Senate Bill 582) following a nearly three-year effort to improve recycling programs across the state. The Recycling Modernization Act will overhaul Oregon’s outdated recycling system by building on local community programs and leveraging the resources of packaging producers in order to create an innovative system that works for everyone in Oregon.

“The Recycling Modernization Act is a major, comprehensive update to Oregon’s recycling system that has been several years in the making. By thoughtfully addressing the myriad challenges that have been eroding the effectiveness of our recycling programs for the last few decades, this bill puts Oregon at the forefront of recycling innovation once again,” said DEQ Director Richard Whitman. “I am thrilled that through this system-wide reform, Oregon will be living up to our strong legacy of environmental protection through recycling, and welcoming producers into the fold to share in that great responsibility.”

The Recycling Modernization Act is a redesign of Oregon’s system for handling discarded materials that assures everyone takes part in reducing the amount of materials thrown away, and that recycling programs are successful at creating environmental and social benefits. The new legislation creates a “shared responsibility” recycling system where producers of packaging, paper products and food service ware will fund necessary upgrades and perform specific functions to make Oregon’s recycling programs convenient, accessible, and reliable.

The legislation received strong support from local governments, the recycling industry and environmental advocacy groups throughout the 2021 legislative session. Many Oregon-based businesses also supported the changes – businesses like New Seasons Market, Bob’s Red Mill, and Rogue Creamery.

“A modernized statewide recycling system is long overdue, and we commend our elected officials for their support in delivering this environmental win for all Oregonians,” said Nancy Lebold, chief executive officer at New Seasons Market. “We look forward to collaborating with a network of producers to raise the bar on sustainable business practices across the state.”

Following several years of economic challenges, uncertainty about where our recyclables go and increasing local costs, Oregon’s recycling system was in crisis. In 2018, Oregon DEQ convened a group of recycling system stakeholders – including local governments, recycling industry businesses and other experts – to study these issues and propose a solution.

“DEQ is grateful to the many, many dedicated individuals and organizations that participated in this nearly three-year process to modernize Oregon’s recycling system. From city and county representatives and environmental advocates to the recycling industry and packaging producers, the truly broad range of perspectives and experiences made this a successful endeavor,” Whitman said. “We look forward to continuing to work with these partners to implement this new program and achieve our collective goals together.”

In the new system, producers will join in a Producer Responsibility Organization (PRO) that will fund improvements to the system and ensure the recyclables that are collected go to responsible end markets. A new uniform statewide collection list will allow individuals and businesses to recycle the same items across the state, at home and at work. Recycling services will be expanded under the direction of local governments, especially for rural communities and people living in apartments, with support from producer funding. The same private collection companies will continue to provide recycling services in local communities. Processing of recyclable materials will be done in facilities that meet new performance standards, including for material quality, reporting, and paying living wages to facility workers.

DEQ is working on an implementation plan and details will be shared when they are available. More information about the Recycling Modernization Act is online at:

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