A Focus on Paper

Master Recyclers tend to obsess about plastics. Without reiterating the litany of problems with the material, suffice it to say, there is good reason. But let’s not forget to talk to folks about the material that makes up the majority of our waste stream: Paper!

Paper factoids every recycling enthusiast should know.

  • 14% of the metro area garbage is paper.
  • Add another 7% if you count food soiled paper.
  • Businesses in the metro area throw away 20 tons of paper every 30 minutes.
  • Paper products make up 70% of the area’s recycling.

Close the Loop.

Much of the paper that Portlanders set aside for recycling goes to mills in the Pacific NW. These mills are locally owned and create jobs. Paper mills are really feeling the economic crunch. The region continues to send these mills tons of paper for recycling every day, but we are not buying recycled content paper at the same rate. One Newberg company was recently forced to temporarily close as they don’t have enough room to store all the paper they made but can’t sell. Oregon City's Blue Heron Recycling closed a few years back due to the lack of paper markets.  More sustainable paper practices will help conserve our forests, streams and local jobs. It is not enough to just set your paper out for recycling. We can help save local jobs and keep fiber from being shipped overseas by buying recycled content paper. If you are on a green team, run a business or have a home office, make sure your procurement practices include using recycled content paper.

Keep the Paper Stream Clean.

Master Recyclers can continue to share two major messages in order to improve curbside paper recycling: “Keep Glass on the Side” and “No Plastic Bags.” These two are our biggest contaminants for paper in our commingled recycling. Glass grinds at the mill equipment and plastic bags confuses the sorting machines so that papermills end up buying plastic and metals instead of paper. These problem materials cost our local mills millions of dollars.

Don’t Forget to Reduce.