FEBRUARY 2009

Oregon sees dramatic increase of rigid plastic recycling

Oregon’s Rigid Plastic Container Law was passed in 1991 as part of a comprehensive recycling and waste reduction law. Its intent was to kick-start the recycling of plastic containers in Oregon, and in that purpose it was successful. Most Oregon cities added mixed plastic bottles to their recycling curbside collection programs in the years following passage of the law, and the recycling rate for plastic containers shot up above the 25 percent goal set in the law. In recent years, however, the recycling rate has slowly declined, until it bordered on 25 percent by 2004.

In 2006, the recycling rate increased sharply, and has continued increasing into 2007. The main reason for this increase was that many curbside recycling programs began collecting recyclables in large roll carts instead of small bins and also began collecting tubs, flower pots and buckets, in addition to plastic bottles. Both factors have significantly increased the tons of plastic collected from the public for recycling.

The 2007/2009 recycling rate report, released in December 2008, found that the recycling rate for rigid plastic containers had climbed to about 30 percent in 2007. The report further projected that the rate for the coming year will remain high for two reasons.

First, curbside recycling of containers is expected to continue to increase as more jurisdictions including Portland switch from bins to roll carts for recycling collection.

Second, water bottle recycling should increase in 2009 when water bottles are added to the Oregon bottle bill.

Prices paid for recycled plastic dropped sharply in 2008, and are expected to continue. However, because plastic collected through curbside programs is not affected by lower prices, rates are expected to remain above 25 percent in 2009.