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Oregon's Recycling Laws
Recycling is one type of materials management. Under Oregon law, all cities with at least 4,000 people must provide recycling services. Oregon’s recycling laws require local governments to implement recycling programs and, in some jurisdictions, waste prevention and reuse programs.
Oregon’s base recycling law is the Opportunity to Recycle Act (Oregon Revised Statute 459A), which the Oregon Legislature most recently amended in 2015. DEQ elaborates on the Opportunity to Recycle Act in the agency’s Recycling and Waste Reduction administrative rules. DEQ also regulates local governments’ recycling, waste prevention, and reuse programs according to Materials Management in Oregon: 2050 Vision and Framework for Action, Oregon’s State Integrated Resource and Solid Waste Management Plan. The 2050 Vision guides statewide policy for managing materials throughout their full life cycles, including recovery, reduction, reuse, and recycling.
Implementation of Oregon’s Recycling Laws
Local Governments at the Forefront
DEQ regulates the cities, counties, and metropolitan service districts (Metro) that provide Oregonians the opportunity to recycle. Oregon’s recycling laws give local governments flexibility in implementing materials management programs and meeting voluntary materials recovery goals. The laws also require more from local governments with larger populations and from cities closer to Portland.
In a 2016 review on potential impacts of new recycling rules, DEQ found that around 90 cities – and their counties in areas between those cities’ limits and urban growth boundaries – must offer recycling programs. About 20 of those cities and all Metro cities, as well as their counties, must also implement the Opportunity to Recycle Act’s waste production and reuse program requirements.
Oregon’s Materials Management Hierarchy
The Opportunity to Recycle Act provides that, to conserve energy and natural resources, materials management should follow a hierarchy:
Reduce & Reuse – Local Governments’ Waste Prevention and Reuse Programs
For waste prevention and reuse programs, certain cities must implement between three and five program elements from a menu of seven:
Recycle & Compost – Local Governments’ Recycling Programs
Oregon also offers local governments flexibility to implement their recycling programs using a menu of thirteen program elements:
Evolution of Oregon’s Recycling laws
A shortage of landfill space encouraged the Oregon legislature to pass the Opportunity to Recycle Act in 1983. The law established solid waste management policies that recognized the environmental benefits of waste prevention, reuse and recycling. The law also required wastesheds to have recycling depots and cities with populations over 4,000 to provide monthly curbside recycling collection service to all garbage service customers.
The 1991 Oregon Recycling Act (SB 66) strengthened and broadened recycling requirements and added activities to develop markets for recyclable materials. SB 66 set a statewide recovery goal of 50 percent by 2000 and required that DEQ conduct regular waste composition studies and develop a solid waste management plan. SB 66 also created the first eight recycling program elements. The 1997 Oregon Legislature made changes to some of those elements and added a ninth.
Also in 1997, a coalition of experts developed a strategy to move Oregon’s resource recovery efforts beyond recycling. A resulting program offered local governments a two percent recovery rate credit for establishing and maintaining programs in waste prevention, reuse and backyard composting.
Transition to Materials Management
In 2011, DEQ convened a workgroup to help develop a long-term vision and framework for responsible materials management in Oregon. The Oregon Environmental Quality Commission adopted the resulting Materials Management in Oregon: 2050 Vision and Framework for Action (2050 Vision). The 2050 Vision is also Oregon’s State Integrated Resource and Solid Waste Management Plan. The 2050 Vision guides statewide policy for managing materials throughout their full life cycles, including recovery, reduction, reuse, and recycling.
In June 2015, the Oregon Legislature passed Senate Bill (SB 263). SB 263 better enables DEQ, local governments, and Oregonians to make progress under the 2050 Vision. Among other things, SB 263:
Revenue to fund DEQ expenses directly related to the proposed rules was anticipated during the development of Senate Bill 245 (SB 245), which allowed for increases in tipping fees. The legislature also passed SB 245 in June 2015 as a companion to SB 263.
Current Recovery Goals
Under Oregon’s recycling laws, the state’s mandatory rate of material recovery from the general solid waste stream is 52 percent for 2020. That rises to 55 percent for 2025 and subsequent years. The law also sets mandatory statewide material-specific recovery rates for:
Each wasteshed – Oregon counties, Metro, and the City of Milton-Freewater – also has its own voluntary recovery goal in statute. Wastesheds set their recovery goals through whatever methods they chose. Wastesheds’ recovery goals vary from highs of 64 percent for Metro and Marion County to 20 percent in some counties.
History of Recovery Rates in Oregon
Besides broadening recycling requirements, the Oregon Legislature’s passage of SB 66 in 1991 did the following:
Solid waste generation – the total amount of “waste” materials, whether recycled, composted or disposed – grew each year through the 1990s. The amount of materials recovered also grew steadily. But, by 2000, Oregon had not reached 50 percent recovery.
So in 2001, the Oregon Legislature passed House Bill 3744 (HB 3744). HB 3744 lowered the statewide recovery goal to 45 percent for 2005 and set a 50 percent goal for 2009. HB 3744 also required each wasteshed that did not achieve its 2005 or 2009 goal to conduct a technical review of its programs and determine revisions to be implemented to meet the wasteshed’s recovery goal.
Further, HB 3744 set two statewide waste generation goals and added waste prevention language to Oregon law: (1) by 2005, there would be no annual increase in per capita municipal solid waste generation; and (2) by 2009, there would be no annual increase in total municipal solid waste generation. In 2010, Oregon met its 50 percent statewide recovery goal.
For more information, contact the DEQ’s Materials Management Program, Portland, at 503-229-5696 or the Materials management technical assistance staff in your nearest DEQ regional office. Detailed information about individual wasteshed recovery rates and recovery rate goals is also available.
For more information about DEQ's Land Quality programs, visit the DEQ contact page.