Trash Talk

Modernizing Oregon Recycling

by Alissa Oliverson (SWAC Chair), February 2021

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

Oregon is not the only state with an outdated recycling system, but we are one of a few states  that are actively seeking to change this reality. Senate Bill 582-1 proposes legislation that will  overhaul Oregon’s recycling system to make recycling easier and more accessible, in part by  requiring producers to take responsibility for their products and packaging.

It is no secret that recycling is a messy endeavor at best, and a broken system at worst. In the  U.S. every state, county, and city has its own rules for recycling and too often our recyclables  end up in the trash or even wind up as pollution around the world. There is much to be done  about the problems presented by our current recycling system, and Oregon is taking its place  once again as a national leader in solving them.

Senate Bill 582-1 will address four major issues within Oregon’s recycling system:

1. It will create a statewide list of recyclable materials. This standardization within Oregon’s recycling industry will eliminate the confusion many of us feel when we sort our recyclables at  home and work. When every county and city follows the same rules, Oregon’s recycling will be streamlined, much easier to understand, and far more profitable.

2. It will put a focus on responsible recycling. You might remember from a previous Trash Talk article that the chasing arrows – those three arrows set in a triangular pattern on the bottom of almost every product/package – DO NOT mean that the item is actually recyclable. Oregon seeks to outlaw this symbol, unless the item is truly recyclable in our new streamlined system. Truthful labeling leads to responsible recycling because it eliminates consumer manipulation and confusion.

3. It will require producers to invest in Oregon’s recycling system. Extended Producer  Responsibility (EPR) is a key factor in the future of recycling because it is about teamwork. Up until now, producers have been allowed to make their products/packaging without giving any consideration to what happens to them after they have been used – or who pays for their disposal. This one-sided system has put all the physical and financial responsibility for recycling on the consumer and local entities, while the producers have gotten off scot-free and made huge profits. Oregon seeks to balance the scales and require that producers who sell things in our state pay their fair share and help to build and participate in a system that facilitates the concept of sustainability.

4. It will advance equity in recycling. Adequate access to recycling services is crucial if we are to tie up the loose ends in our system. Rural areas and multifamily housing (like apartment buildings) have been underserved thus far. By including these places in an updated system, we can reduce activities like burning and illegal dumping, which have devastating impacts on our air quality, human and environmental health.

Oregon’s recycling system was created over 30 years ago, when technology, economics, and  products were different. It is time for an update that optimizes environmental benefits, is more resilient to change, and restores public trust through transparency and follow through. You can learn more about SB 582-1 on the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) website at: http://go.usa.gov/x7nZG and you can get more information about sustainability in the Klamath Basin at: SustainableKlamath.org.

Recycle Right

by Alissa Oliverson (SWAC Chair) January 2021

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

Putting the wrong items in your recycle bin can cause big problems, and dirty items contaminate  the process – both were main reasons that China stopped accepting our recyclables in 2018. Now more than ever we need a viable and streamlined recycling process in the U.S. and you can help by using Waste Management’s infographic to help you remember what goes in your recycle  bin and what stays out.

It does not feel good to throw away plastic packaging, like sour cream or yogurt tubs and take out containers, but in our current recycling reality it is the right thing to do. Waste Management, the trash and recycling collector for the Klamath Basin accepts only certain items for recycling, based on current global markets. When you place inappropriate matter in your recycle bin, it becomes a sorting hassle that makes the already cumbersome recycling process even worse, it could cause damage to expensive machinery, and it could even jeopardize the lives of workers on  the sorting line. So, please use this handy infographic from Waste Management and the following tips to help you remember what goes in your recycle bin and what stays out.

All recyclables should be clean and dry. You do not have to scrub them squeaky clean, but they should be clean enough so that they do not contaminate other recyclables, like paper. If you have an extra moment, remove the label from metal cans. As a general rule, receipts are not recyclable, so throw them in the trash along with caps and lids. Medical waste, like syringes, are not recyclable either. These items must be appropriately and safely handled. When recycling plastics, include only containers that have a mouth smaller than the base. Place clean, dry containers in your recycle bin and do not bag recyclables: leave them loose. 

Also, remember that studies show families who employ teamwork to tackle their household  recycling are more effective recyclers than families who have only one person assigned to the task. Another good way to increase your recycling rate is to place a recycle bin next to each trash bin in your home – in the office, the bathroom, the game room, the garage, the kitchen – wherever you collect trash, collect recyclables too. 

When you have already done your best to reduce and reuse, do your best to recycle right. 

You can find a list of alternative drop-off locations for other recyclable materials and more  information about supporting sustainability in the Klamath Basin at: www.SustainableKlamath.org.

5 Resolutions for a More Sustainable 2021

by Alissa Oliverson (SWAC Chair) December 2020

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

It’s that time again, when we look forward to the possibilities of a new year and decide how we will rewrite our lives for the next 365 days. As we consider personal care resolutions like eating  healthier and exercising more, it can also be good for us to incorporate activities that benefit the environment – activities that might not seem personal at first glance but can really have a positive impact on our daily lives. As you contemplate your resolutions for 2021, consider how you can add one or more of these sustainable activities to your 2021 story.

1. Swap eco-friendly products into your life

Q-tips can be swapped for products like Last Swab, swabs made from silicone that replace up to  1,000 swabs and are easily washed after each use. Kleenex can be swapped for handkerchiefs. Cloth towels can be swapped for paper towels. Every day 6 million pounds of paper towel waste is produced in the US alone. Paper towels are not recyclable and when they decompose in the landfill, they produce methane gas – one of the leading causes of global warming. You can find re-rollable cotton/flannel towels on sites like Etsy, or even make your own. You still get the convenience of the roll, you won’t be throwing your money in the trash with each used towel, and you’ll be doing your part to help draw down methane emissions from landfills.

2. Ditch dryer sheets

Single-use dryer sheets are wasteful, and being made from polyester, they are not bio degradable. Dryer sheets coat clothing with a lubricating film that reduces static and often adds fragrance. But due to unlisted and other potentially toxic compounds like Quaternary ammonium compounds (QACs), dryer sheets can irritate the skin and respiratory system and poison aquatic organisms that are a crucial part of natural systems. Instead of using dryer sheets you can hang  dry your clothes, which will make them last longer and save you money on energy usage. You can also try wool dryer balls, or simply separate natural fabrics from synthetic fabrics in the dryer.

3. Refuse receipts

Most receipts are not recyclable because they are often made from thermal paper, which is  coated in bisphenol A (BPA). BPA is an endocrine disruptor that is easily absorbed through the  skin and can contribute to increased risk of breast and prostate cancers, cardiovascular disease, and reproductive and brain development abnormalities. For these reasons, BPA has long been banned from products like infant toys and water bottles – but it’s still in the receipt paper that many of us touch every day. Not only do receipts add to the mass in landfills, but they also  poison us with every touch. Say “no receipt, please” and if you really need one, use gloves to handle it and keep it in a dedicated space, like an envelope, so it doesn’t rub off on other things  you touch.

4. Borrow and lend tools or other equipment that you don’t use all the time

If you need a tool for a home improvement project, check out Sustainable Klamath’s Tool  Library at 1221 Main Street (next to Rodeo’s Pizza). The Tool Library is stocked with over 1,000 tools that you can rent for your project and return when you’re done. You’ll save money on a tool you might otherwise buy and never use again, which is a great way to keep your budget  in check and fulfill the most important R in the sustainability behavior chain: Reduce. Borrowing can extend to other items you might need on a temporary basis, like stand-up mixers for baking, extra chairs for special occasions, or even luggage for infrequent travelers.

5. Join or donate to a local sustainability/environmental group

One of the most difficult parts of adding new sustainable activities to our lives is often a lack of support or information. But here in the Basin, you can get both! Sustainable Klamath is a volunteer-based non-profit that works to provide education and resources that help to protect and enhance the health and wellbeing of our region and its people. We are always looking for volunteers and donors to help us continue our good works. Consider putting your unique talents to work with us and enjoy the company of like-minded people who are excited to help make sustainability practices more accessible. You might also consider joining Klamath’s Community Supported Agriculture group (CSA). CSA’s are a great way to promote sustainability and economic stability by employing small-scale methods and keeping food commerce local. SweetUnionFarm.com is the online platform for a small farm in Klamath Falls where you can receive fresh food from local farmers, recipes, VIP access to farm events, and discounts on cooking classes and farm-to-table dinners. You can also purchase local produce through KFOM, the Klamath Farmers Online Marketplace.

Whatever resolutions you decide to pencil in for 2021, know that Sustainable Klamath is here to encourage and support the health and wellbeing of our region and its people. Find out more about us at SustainableKlamath.org. Happy New Year!

5 Tips for a More Sustainable Thanksgiving

by Alissa Oliverson (SWAC Chair) November 2020

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

Americans throw away 25% more trash from Thanksgiving to New Year than any other time of year. But spending time with our loved ones and enjoying good food together doesn’t have to threaten the health of the environment that sustains us. This year, consider learning more about sustainability by joining Sustainable Klamath, and try out these tips for a more sustainable Thanksgiving.

  1. Reduce food waste.
    • Remember: what you scrape off your plate into the trash is a waste of the resources used to produce the food, and the hard-earned money you spent to buy it.
    • Shop wisely – buy only what you need. Make a list before you go.
    • Cook wisely – make enough but not too much. You can check out SaveTheFood.com and try out their free “Guest-Imator,” which will help you plan your meal for your exact number of guests and desired number of leftover meals.
    • Use smaller plates. Guests can still serve up seconds if they please, but smaller plates allow everyone to gauge their fullness more effectively. Not only will this save a lot of wasted food from the trash, but it will also help people avoid over-eating and packing on those pesky holiday pounds. Health is wealth!
    • Compost scraps like eggshells and potato skins, or food that has gone bad. Remember to keep meat and dairy products out of your compost.
  1. Cook a smaller turkey or perform a full pardon and go totally meat-free.
    • Around 200 million pounds of turkey meat is thrown away during Thanksgiving every year, contributing to climate change by increasing methane gas emissions from landfills.
    • Eating less meat is one of the most effective ways to combat climate change and preserve natural habitats.
    • The veggies that make up all those amazing side dishes require less water, land, and fuel to produce than turkey.
  1. Shop local.
    • Locally produced foods require fewer greenhouse gasses to get to you and they are often grown on smaller farms that use more sustainable methods.
    • Local foods are fresher because they don’t have to travel as far, and this often means they taste better.
    • Shopping local keeps money and jobs in our community’s economy.
  1. If you’re a guest, bring your own reusable container for leftovers.
    • The times they are a changing, folks. It is not socially or environmentally conscious to expect your host to send you home with leftovers in a single-use take-out container, or on a single-use paper plate covered in aluminum foil. Just like you bring your own bag to the grocery store, bring your own container to Thanksgiving dinner.
    • Even with concerns of cleanliness/contamination amid the COVID-19 pandemic, expert epidemiologists, virologists, biologists, chemists, and doctors across the globe agree that with basic hygiene and cleaning methods, reusable containers are just as safe as their single-use counterparts.
  1. Refuse single-use tableware.
    • Each week, from Thanksgiving to New Year, Americans throw out 1million extra tons of trash. Paper/Styrofoam plates, plastic cups and silverware, and paper napkins seem tempting when you think about Thanksgiving clean up, but they are not recyclable, and they are devastating to the environment.
    • “Eco-friendly” plates and tableware that claim to be fully compostable or biodegradable are not necessarily a good idea either. Many of these products are made from plastic that has been synthesized from corn, and if they are not composted in a proper industrial facility, their claims are meaningless. The Klamath Basin does not have an industrial composting facility, so these products will still end up in the landfill.
    • Cloth napkins and reusable tableware are your best bet. Even after using water and energy to clean these items, they are still the more environmentally friendly options. Additionally, spending time with your loved ones on a clean-up task is a great way to build relationships. And after all, what else are the holidays for?

Sustainable Klamath is seeking volunteers and donors to help us continue to provide education and resources to the Klamath Basin. Please consider us during this charitable season and visit our website at SustainableKlamath.org to volunteer or donate.

Your jack-o-lantern: eat it or smash it, don’t trash it

by Alissa Oliverson (SWAC Chair) October 2020

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

Trashing your jack-o-lantern after Halloween is a horrifying way to worsen climate change and it is a nightmare of wasted opportunity. Pumpkins provide vital nutrients, and they can combat food insecurity as a human food source. And even after they have spooked your neighbors, jack-o-lanterns can continue to scare up beneficial microorganisms in our soil through composting.

Halloween is pumpkin season, but it is not just the wicked grins we carve into millions of jack-o-lanterns that might rightly frighten you. It is a scary fact that in the U.S. more than 1 billion pounds of pumpkins will end up in the trash instead of being eaten or composted. This amount of waste is a terrifying reality that contributes to local and global food insecurity, greenhouse gas emissions, and lost opportunities to regenerate the precious soil that grows our food. So, before you carve your pumpkin this year, give a thought to more ways you can eat it, and how you will care for it after its freaky charm has faded.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines food insecurity as “a lack of consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life,” and more than 13 million U.S. households were food insecure within the last year. Imagine the positive change we could make to that number if those 1 billion pounds of trashed pumpkins were used to feed people instead of simply providing menacing glares from festive front porches.

Pumpkins are low in calories but packed with nutrients, like vitamins A and C, which can boost our immune systems. In our current state of uncertainty amidst the global Covid-19 pandemic, common sense tells us we can use all the immune-boosting help we can get. And with its low calorie density, pumpkin is a weight loss-friendly food that can help us avoid packing on health-endangering extra pounds over the notoriously richly plated holiday season. In the spirit of the fall harvest you might also consider a pumpkin pardon. Much like the White House’s turkey pardon at Thanksgiving, you could pardon a pumpkin from its fate as a jack-o-lantern at Halloween. Instead of carving a pumpkin you could donate one to a local homeless shelter, where it could fulfill its destiny as a warm and nutritious soup or other meal for people in need, and avoid a wasted life in a landfill.

When pumpkins creep into landfills, they decompose and emit a greenhouse gas called methane (CH4). Over the course of 20 years, methane is more than 80 times as powerful as carbon dioxide (CO2) in trapping heat in the atmosphere. And though it does not linger in the atmosphere as long as CO2, methane is more devastating initially because it is more effective at absorbing heat from the sun’s rays. The good news is that we can mitigate the effects of methane in our atmosphere by keeping pumpkins and other food waste out of our landfills.

One of the best methods available to us for reducing CO2 levels in our atmosphere is regenerating our soil. Experts have forecast that if we do not prioritize soil regeneration, not only will our climate continue to get warmer, we will also face a terrifying situation in which our soil will be too depleted to grow crops within about 6o years. Methods such as composting and no-till farming are highly effective at pulling CO2 out of the atmosphere and putting it back into the soil, where it needs to be if we are to produce healthy crops for generations to come.

While most of us do not participate in industrial farming that could be transitioned to no-till farming, we all can compost. Decrepit jack-o-lanterns that are added to your compost pile will help microorganisms grow and work their magic, turning food waste into a nutrient-rich treatment that can quickly enhance and heal our rapidly degenerating soil. This will allow us to produce food well past the hauntingly short 60-year timeframe and draw down our atmospheric CO2 levels at breakneck speed. It is comforting to know that something so simple as proper jack-o-lantern after care could be an important part of viable solutions to many of the social and climate problems we are experiencing in our modern times.

It can be challenging to adopt a new mindset and make changes, especially when those changes require us to move away from traditions we have shared with our loved ones. So, if you simply must carve a pumpkin this year, please consider alternative ways to dispose of it when the holiday has passed. You could have a pumpkin smashing party and put all the viscera in your compost bin. If you don’t have a compost bin you can simply bury the pumpkin. Or you can hack that pumpkin to pieces and spread it in a natural area where birds and other wildlife can access it as food. A quick internet search will reveal many ways to care for your jack-o-lantern after it has served its haunting purpose, and by creating a new, eco-friendly family tradition you will be ensuring that your family will be able to enjoy good food and fun times on a healthy planet long into the future. So, do something good for your family and the planet this Halloween. Donate a pumpkin, try a new recipe, and compost your jack-o-lantern when it is withering away on its deathbed. Whether you eat it or smash it, just don’t trash it.

For more information on composting and other solid waste issues, please visit the SWAC page at SustaintableKlamath.org. Happy Halloween!

The Problem with Chasing Arrows

by Alissa Oliverson (SWAC Chair), September 2020

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

For decades, the general public has been duped into believing that any plastic item bearing the international recycling symbol, known as the Chasing Arrows, is recyclable. The confusion this symbol has created was intentional, and it continues to complicate recycling efforts locally and internationally.

In 1973, top oil and plastic executives received a report stating that recycling plastic is nearly impossible: sorting is infeasible, the recycling process is costly, and plastic degrades every time you try to reuse it. Courtroom discovery documents from 1974 contain a speech from a plastic industry insider, which states that there is “serious doubt that [recycling large quantities of plastic] can ever be made viable on an economic basis.”

But despite these and other all-too-true warnings, big oil and big plastic went ahead with the production of more and more virgin plastic, without a viable plan for its end-of-life. The plan they did have, was a plan to confuse the public and advertise their way out of any negative associations we had started to make with plastic.

We have all seen the international recycling symbol known as the Chasing Arrows, three arrows forming a triangle with a number inside, stamped on the bottom of just about every piece of plastic we consume. But this symbol does not indicate that a product is actually recyclable. It only indicates the type of chemicals used to make the plastic.

Nevertheless, the plastic industry lobbied to have the symbol stamped on every plastic item, even if there was no way to recycle it. Industry insiders have spoken out about why the Chasing Arrows and other campaigns, like the Possibilities of Plastics ads were used. They knew that if the public thought recycling was working and applied to the vast majority of plastic, we would be less concerned about the environment and therefore, we would continue to buy the plastic they were producing from virgin materials at huge profit gains. Today, we call this method of deception: greenwashing. The plastic industry has known about the confusing effect of greenwashing all along, and they continue to take advantage of it to this day.

So, what are we consumers to do? How can we know which plastic items are truly recyclable and which are not? Loads of recyclables that are contaminated with improper plastics make the already cumbersome recycling process even worse. Is there a nationally or internationally standardized list of recyclable plastics? No, not really. It turns out, the best way to know what is currently recyclable is to know what your local recycler will and will not take.

Here in the Klamath Basin, we rely on Waste Management to collect our recyclables, and lucky for us, they provide a handy infographic that shows us what to put in our recycle bin and what to keep out. If you have lost your copy of this valuable flyer, or if you never received one, you can find it on the SWAC page of Sustainable Klamath’s website at: SustainableKlamath.org. You can also request a copy from Waste Management directly.

Be skeptical when you are shopping and considering items that feature the Chasing Arrows -remember that this symbol does not mean the item is actually recyclable. Find alternatives to plastic, like buying in bulk with reusable containers. Write to your favorite companies/brands and ask them to change their packaging so that it is universally recyclable. And consider telling companies like Dow, DuPont, Procter & Gamble, Exxon, Chevron, The American Chemistry Council, and others that using the Chasing Arrows indiscriminately is an unacceptable and environmentally irresponsible greenwashing tactic that you will not stand for.

Now that we are aware of the deceptive marketing techniques of big oil and big plastic, it is up to us to see through their chicanery, demand change, and do our best to stay up to date on what our community collects for recycling. It’s not our fault that we were fooled. The oil and plastic industries spent millions to pull the wool over our eyes. But now that we know better, we must act on that knowledge and do our part.

Margaret Mead once said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Sustainable Klamath is a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens based in Klamath Falls, working to provide education and actionable opportunities that help make our community and our world a healthier, more sustainable place. You can stay informed on our work, donate, and find out how to join us by visiting our website at: SustainableKlamath.org.

Extended Producer Responsibility: One Avenue Toward a Plastic Pollution Solution

by Alissa Oliverson, August 2020

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

As plastic pollution continues to cause problems around the world, communities and nations are looking for a holistic solution, part of which could be holding producers responsible for the environmental impacts of their products. 

A new report by PEW suggests that if we continue business as usual and stay in a holding pattern with the current government and industry commitments to reducing plastic waste, by 2040 we will have reduced the amount of plastic in the oceans by only 7%. Worse yet, if we backslide on these commitments, the amount of plastic waste in the oceans could triple by 2040. But, if we take ambitious action now, invest in a new worldview and system, we can reduce plastic waste in the oceans by 80% by 2040. 

We have all heard the truth by now: it is impossible to recycle our way out of our plastic pollution problem. Massive shifts in overseas markets have put financial pressure on recycling systems, and new challenges arise every day with the ever-increasing volume of waste society produces. 

This reality has stimulated the awakening of people’s environmental consciousness, and it has created a space for a new conversation that demands real solutions to our plastic pollution problem. This does not mean we should give up on recycling, rather that we need to find viable ways to supplement recycling as we move toward the zero-waste pinnacle of sustainability. Enter: Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR). 

Originally proposed by Thomas Lindhqvist in a 1990 report to the Swedish Ministry of the Environment, Extended Producer Responsibility is a waste reduction strategy. It suggests that manufacturers and all entities in the product chain should bear a significant amount of responsibility for the environmental impacts of their products, from cradle to grave. 

With this new level of responsibility, EPR would naturally encourage innovation in product design to minimize negative impacts on human health and the environment at every stage. It would encourage the simplification and streamlining of products to make them more reusable and/or recyclable, and less costly. Ideally, EPR policies would make our linear “produce-use- dispose” system less wasteful and more efficient, more like a closed-loop, with the potential for new profits and new markets to emerge – markets that reflect the true environmental impacts of a product. Think of it this way: in providing better products and processes, producers can help fix the problems they created, prevent them in the future, and make better money. Everybody wins. 

We have already seen examples of Extended Producer Responsibility in action. Bottle Bills, like Oregon’s Bottle Drop, are one of the earliest forms of EPR. Electronic equipment take-back programs are another example. Dell has been taking back its obsolete electronics for free and recycling them since 2006. In the 1990’s, Nike launched their Reuse-A-Shoe program, which continues to this day, collecting used sneakers of any brand and turning them into material that can be, and has been used in a variety of ways. These and other examples of EPR may not be perfect, but they are valuable in promoting the necessary transition to a circular economy, which could be a huge part of the solution to our plastic pollution problem. 

As we begin to explore the potential of Extended Producer Responsibility, it is important to remember that this is about a shift in the way we think about people, planet, and profits. Current corporate objectives to maximize profits might not work with the environmental values necessary to clean up and prevent future messes. So, new, transparent policies will need to be created, and public oversight must be maintained. We will need to ensure that EPR policies don’t just allow a “pay to pollute” economic arena, wherein producers pay offset fees to continue their business-as-usual, manufacturing single-use and unnecessary plastic products. Consumers and producers alike will need to allow a new worldview to direct our best actions toward a zero- waste reality. 

We have all heard the truth by now: our plastic pollution problem is dire, and we must act now to mitigate the negative consequences. Downstream solutions like recycling are not the only answer. We must also look upstream, to the producers. We must demand that producers participate in our new paradigm where we put the environment first. They must innovate their products. Producers must work in harmony with nature to create environmentally responsible products, packaging, and practices that do not further harm our environment, but work with it long into the future – and help to heal the damage that has already been done. 

New EPR policies will no doubt be coming soon to our community, and as one avenue toward a plastic pollution solution, Extended Producer Responsibility is something we cannot afford to trivialize or ignore. 

If you would like to take action, you can visit our SWAC page and use our EPR form letter in an email to your representative or even to your favorite company/producer. To get involved locally, please contact us for more information.

Knowledge is Power… and so is Trash!

by Alissa Oliverson, February 2020

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

Renewable Natural Gas (RNG), produced by the natural decomposition of your trash, is providing power to 3,000 homes in the Rogue Valley. In the future, it will also fuel an entire fleet of garbage trucks, and more…

As you may have learned in a previous Trash Talk segment, Klamath County is under a contract with Rogue Disposal and Recycling, which permits Rogue Disposal and Recycling to transport our trash to their Dry Creek Landfill in Jackson County. What you may not know is how Rogue Disposal and Recycling is putting all that waste to use.

Every day, an average of 90 tons of trash is transported from Klamath County to the Dry Creek Landfill in Eagle Point, where Rogue Disposal and Recycling has been working on a closed-loop plan for over a decade. 

“Closed-loop” is a term that refers to a system in which a business will reuse the same materials over and over again to create new products. It’s an increasingly popular business model that diverts materials from the landfill and streamlines production. But in this case, where the Dry Creek Landfill is the business and the trash in the landfill is the material, closed-loop refers to the disposal stage being fed back into the creation of a new product. And that new product is fuel.

When organic materials in solid waste decompose, they produce biogas – and that biogas can be used in many ways. Right now, the Dry Creek Landfill Gas-To-Energy Facility captures biogas from the landfill and uses generators to produce 3.2 megawatts of renewable electricity, which Rogue Disposal and Recycling sells to Pacific Corp., ultimately providing power to more than 3,000 homes in the Jackson County area, annually. 

In the future, Rogue Disposal and Recycling plans to do even more. They plan to refine their biogas into a high concentration of methane called Renewable Natural Gas (RNG), and eventually fuel their entire fleet of garbage trucks with it. 

Currently, the majority of their fleet is fueled by Compressed Natural Gas (CNG), which is derived from fossil fuels. The only difference between CNG and RNG is the source of the gas: CNG comes from fossil fuels extracted from beneath the earth’s surface, whereas RNG comes from the decomposition of organic matter. This means that any vehicle able to run on natural gas can take both CNG and RNG. This also means that, in regard to infrastructure, changes must be made to support CNG (or natural gas in general) before RNG can take over. 

By 2023, Rogue Disposal and Recycling projects that they will have achieved a large part of their closed-loop plan by having converted their entire fleet of garbage trucks to CNG. And eventually, they will fuel their natural gas-powered fleet exclusively with the RNG they produce in their own Gas-To-Energy Facility at the Dry Creek Landfill. The infrastructure innovations required to harvest, refine, and use RNG are projected to take about a decade to complete, but some of them can already be seen today. For example: Rogue Clean Fuels, part of the Rogue Waste family of companies, has built a CNG fueling station on Antelope Road that is open to the public, and it is accommodating a growing list of area companies that also use CNG to power their fleet vehicles.

Rogue Disposal and Recycling’s ultimate closed-loop solution stands to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by recycling carbon that is already in the atmosphere; and with its ability to produce more than 2 million diesel-equivalent gallons per year, it also has the potential to fuel other clean-burning facilities and vehicles throughout Southern Oregon.

So, why is this important to us here in Klamath County? After all, Rogue Disposal and Recycling doesn’t pick up our curbside trash – we use Waste Management for that. And our homes are not receiving power from the Dry Creek Landfill Gas-To-Energy Facility. 

Knowing that your properly managed trash could legitimately provide power to your home, business, or vehicle in the future, all while helping to keep our air and environment clean for future generations, provide jobs, and replace problems with solutions is a huge deal! Rogue Disposal and Recycling’s mission can serve as a positive example for surrounding communities, like ours. 

While we want to recycle as much as we can, we should also remember that even when we can’t recycle something, we can still put it to good use by disposing of it properly. So, be sure to follow our local Waste Management guidelines for recycling, and when in doubt, throw it out. 

While you’re following guidelines and discovering the wonderful world of waste management, why not also take a walk once a week and help to beautify our community by picking up litter as you go? Not only will you support your own health with physical activity and build community pride, but by placing litter in appropriate trash cans, you’ll also be helping to make power at the Dry Creek Landfill and you’ll be supporting a future that is filled with positive possibilities for generations to come.

If you need more information on what can and cannot be recycled here in Klamath County, please refer to the SWAC page of our website: Solid Waste Action Committee.

And if you want more information about Rogue Disposal and Recycling, please refer to their website at: RogueDisposal.com.

Remember: knowledge is power… and so is trash!