A Jan. 2 state report reveals that Oregon's recycling rate for rigid plastic containers fell to 24.3 percent in 2005, and is projected to remain below the state's 25-percent requirement. That marks the first time Oregon's recycling rate for rigid plastic containers has fallen below the 25 percent minimum since the law was established a decade ago. The consequence, under state rules: It's largely up to manufacturers to address the problem.
But manufacturers blame Oregon's commingled recycling, which allows consumers to mix recyclables, resulting in wasteful sorting of recyclable materials.
"When it's the failure of the system to actually achieve the recycling of the materials that are actually put out on the curb, it doesn't seem just to be holding the product manufacturers and consumers responsible," says Pat McCormick, a spokesman for manufacturers such as the Grocery Manufacturers of America.
The manufacturers' Roguish solution?
A semantic stunt that petitions the Department of Environmental Quality to "redefine" what it means to recycle in Oregon.
DEQ estimates about 1,700 tons of rigid plastic containers left on the curbside for recycling aren't actually recycled but are instead "lost" in sorting.
The petition filed by 11 groups, including Associated Oregon Industries, proposes including that discarded waste in total recycling calculations. If that happened, voilà, the recycling rate could climb above 25 percent, though nobody has an exact figure.
So if Oregonians tried to recycle a bottle, but it still wound up in the landfill, technically, they still recycled it. Sounds a little fishy, right?
No doubt the state's commingled recycling system could be more efficient—but hey, the law's the law.
"The manufacturers that are responsible for this problem, instead of working toward real, physical solutions, proposed something much simpler, which is to move the goal posts," says Jeremiah Baumann, an environmental advocate for the Oregon State Public Interest Research Group. "Basically, this petition is absurd."