Recycling crisis hits Medford; short term solutions enacted

Medford, Ore.– The recycling crisis is already hitting home. In the month of November, after having nowhere to send its commingled recyclable material, one company that deals with several cities recycling was forced to dump 800 tonnes into the local landfill.

After China’s recent decision to no longer take all of the worlds trash, Rogue Disposal and Recycling along with most of the West Coast have had to switch methods on how and what recyclable materials can be accepted and processed to lower the amount of material that ends up as garbage.

“Basically China is cracking down on contamination and quality standards,” said Community and Governmental Affairs Manager Laura Leebrick. She works for Rogue Waste Systems, a family of companies that includes Rogue Disposal.

This crackdown has forced recycling companies to figure out short term solutions while also looking for a long term answer. But time is ticking and garbage continues to pile up.

Recently, Rogue Disposal had another 600 tonnes of commingled material that couldn’t be sent to China. It sat in the employee parking lot of the transfer station off of Table Rock Road for some time until space was made in the landfill. Around 500 tonnes have since been buried but that still leaves 100 tonnes waiting for a place to go.

“Nobody loves the idea of taking these well-established recycling programs and having to landfill that material,” said Leebrick. “But you know in the short term, while China is putting pressure on the system and refusing to take material, when that material has no home it is by definition – garbage.”

One idea that will soon be implemented will hopefully make it easier to get rid of some recyclables since they can be processed domestically.

Such items include milk jugs, cardboard, aluminum cans and glass bottles.

Rogue Disposal is unveiling the project tomorrow and will be working with several grocery stores to supply black containers where residents can drop off glass bottles. For the rest of the materials the company can dispose of, people will have to go to the transfer station where there will no longer be any mixed material box, just individual material boxes.

The City of Medford approves of the move. It says while it is unfortunate that recyclable material has gone into the landfill, this is the most rational option until more long term solutions can be developed after China decides what to do.

While Ashland and Talent both have increased surcharges for recycling, Medford city council members decided to vote no on an increase. This was in part due mostly to Rogue Disposal’s recommendation since China’s decision was causing to many variables to set a formal solution.

“The issue with China is such an influx. Right now it’s changing on a weekly basis,” said Deputy City Manager Kelly Madding. “Really what needs to happen is China needs to make their decision.”

That decision will be made on January 1st.

But for now, while everything is up in the air, rather than charging Rogue Valley residents a surcharge to recycle, Rogue Disposal is doing what little it can to help.

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