Although 75% of America’s waste is recyclable, as a country we only recycle 34.5% of it.

If/when we get to the 75% rate the effect would be like removing 50 million passenger cars from the U.S. roads. Wow! To get to that 75% rate is going to take a concerted effort by each one of us, (we each need to reduce, reuse, recycle more), but the most meaningful shift rests on the shoulders of our government, and the businesses/industries, that make, package and sell the things we buy. (We will talk further about this in a future column).

In Wallowa County, we currently recycle 27% of the waste we generate, according to a 2016 report from the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality. To give our planet a chance, (recycling just two aluminum cans saves the same amount of energy it takes to power a PC for a single workday), we all need to do more. To give the Wallowa County Recycling Program a fighting chance to survive we also need to do more.

You see, there is a lot of pressure being put on the county’s recycling program to cover its costs when recycling programs around the country are being faced with very low prices for recyclable materials, (which is something we need to take up with our governments and the companies who make and sell the things we purchase). As with any business, there are two primary things that can be done to achieve and/or increase profitability. One is to lower costs, and another is to increase revenue. The Friends of Wallowa County Recycling have worked hard over the past nine months to help lower costs by changing how our recyclables are hauled to processors, (saving 30% on shipping), by creating a volunteer-led transportation initiative helping further lower costs on moving certain recyclables, by coordinating more than 500 volunteer hours to help sort, cover, clean and manage the Recycling Center, by installing more comprehensive signage funded by donated funds and by spearheading grant applications, legislative enquiries and creative solutions to help do more.

We also need to increase the revenue of the recycling program, and the simplest way to do so is for all of Wallowa County to bring more clean, acceptable, recyclables to the Recycling Center at 301 Fish Hatchery Lane in Enterprise. You see, the clean, acceptable recyclables generate revenue for the county, and we need more of that revenue to ensure that our Recycling Center is not limited or overlooked because of a few dollars. That’s right, we need more of your clean aluminum and metal cans. We need more of your newspapers, magazines, mixed paper and junk mail. We need more of your cardboard boxes, (with no packaging in them), your toilet paper rolls, your cereal, cracker, pasta and cookie boxes made from paperboard. We need more of your clean, lids removed, No. 1 PETE plastic, (excluding clamshells, cookie/cake containers, plastic to-go boxes, fruit containers and similar), and we need more of your No. 2 HDPE plastic without the lids. You see, the more clean, acceptable recyclables you, your family, your friends and everyone in the county brings to the Recycling Center, the more likely we are to continue to have a recycling program to help us get to that 75% recycling rate. Thank you for your part in helping make this happen.

To help with continuing to improve the recycling opportunities we have, the Friends of Wallowa County Recycling are sponsoring an Earth Day Open House at the Recycling Center on Friday, April 23 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Join us to help with some “spring cleaning” of the Recycling Center (bring your gloves) and/or to enjoy some fun recycling games, to learn more about the opportunities and challenges we have before us and to view the results of the Recycling Art Contest. The results from the Recycling Art Contest will be displayed at the Josephy Center for Arts and Culture after the Earth Day Open House. Do not hesitate to email us at wallowacountyrecycling@gmail.com or message us on Facebook at Wallowa County Recycles with questions, thoughts, ideas.

Finally, if you have questions on what can be done with other waste products such as paint, hazardous waste, batteries, tires, etc., that are not accepted at the Recycling Center please go to https://co.wallowa.or.us/public-works/solid-waste/recycle-center for details.

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Peter Ferré is a member of the Wallowa County Recycling Task Force.

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