Less waste goes to waste in Lane County

Less waste goes to waste in Lane County »Play Video

EUGENE, Ore. - One county's garbage is another county's "Yeah!"

An annual study released last week by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality found Lane County kept more waste from going to waste than any of Oregon's other 36 counties.

Lane had a 61.5 percent in 2011, followed by Marion County with 60.8 percent and the Portland area with 59.3 percent.

“People have made these economizing moves noticing that it is going to save them money, and they don’t want to stop saving money," said Lane County Waste Reduction Specialist Sarah Grimm at the transfer station in Eugene on Thursday. "So they are continuing their implementation of waste prevention activities.”

The DEQ conducts an annual Material Recovery Survey by surveying all businesses and agencies that dispose of the region's waste.

The resulting data is used to calculate a recovery rate and track this against the specific goals set by the Oregon Legislature in 1995 and 2001.

Lane County beat its 2000 goal of 45 percent with a 52 percent rate. 

More than a decade later, Lane leads the state.

"Lane County citizens and businesses are maximizing the value of every resource, and putting Reduce Reuse Recycle into action," said Grimm. "There is a broadening base of community members and businesses attentive to saving money; reducing unnecessary resource use; and capturing the value of distinct waste materials," she added.

Achieving Oregon's highest reduction rate is a result of the work of many local agencies and groups, Grimm said.

Lane County's popular Master Recycler courses offered by the county continue to fill each year in both spring and fall urban settings. Now over 500 strong, master recycler volunteers provide public promotion and hands-on assistance with waste prevention and recycling in their neighborhoods, work places, churches and community groups.  Registration is open for the next session to be held Jan-Mar 2013 in Vida.

BRING Recycling and its REthink program, which began offering free services to businesses in early 2010, provides onsite consultation to identify money saving techniques that reduce wasteful use of resource in all operations.

One of the local companies to participate in the REthink program is Elder Health and Care in Springfield. Chief operations officer Ronda Perkins said adopting sustainability practices has helped their bottome line.

"It saves us money, and it's good for the community and for the environment," said Perkins at Elder Health and Care on Thursday. "So, it's really a win, win."

The city of Eugene's Love Food Not Waste program successfully targets the large quantities of commercially generated food waste for composting.

"The rising value of metals and other recycle commodities are clearly creating a 'pull' effect on recycling habits," said Grimm, "but its delightful to see increasing options for food waste being recycled into healthy soils growing great local food."

According to the DEQ report, the statewide recovery rate was 52.3 percent, and the energy savings realized by these recycling and energy recovery activities are equal to roughly 3.2 percent of total energy used by all sectors of Oregon's economy in 2011. 

Greenhouse gas reductions were equivalent to taking 580,000 "average" passenger cars off the road.