The annual data from the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality is out and things are looking good!
Oregonians are recycling, composting and burning material for energy at 53.9%. We also had the lowest per capita disposal rate in the 22 years that this survey has been conducted!
The report states, "Most of this increase [in recovery] was due to increased organics recovery (including yard debris, food waste, animal waste and wood waste). Recovery of paint, plastics and tires also increased, while electronics, glass and metals recovery decreased.”
This is the third year in a row for the state to meet state requirements of 50% recovery rate. Metro has not met our higher goal of 64%, but we were able to bring it within sight this year at 62.2%.
Of course recovery is not the whole story!
It is also important to look at all waste generated whether it was recovered or thrown in the trash.
Waste generation is the sum of the tons disposed and tons recovered. Waste generation is the most important indicator of how we are taking care of our planet because the biggest environmental and health impacts come from the extraction of raw materials, processing and manufacturing that goes into making materials.
Waste generation in Oregon equates to 2,469 pounds per person for 2013. In 1993 we were generated about 5.8 pounds of waste per person per day. Today we are producing 6.8. Despite the goal to decrease our waste generation, 365 pounds more waste is generated per person per year than it was in 1993.
But the latest study does include hopeful signs of improvement. The state continued a five-year trend of just about zero increase in waste generation, which is a sharp contrast to much of the 1990s and early 2000s, when waste generation rose steeply.
Peter Spendelow with the Department of Environmental Quality told OPB Radio that waste levels have remained low, even as the economy recovers. “So even though I think the economy is coming back a bit, we’re not seeing waste generation pick up as much you might think it would.”
He added “People are continuing to do smart stuff with their stuff.”
It seems fitting that the data shows that we have much to celebrate in accomplishments in the past and here in January 2015 we can make new resolutions to take that trend further.