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Rethinking recycling: Making progress by going for quality rather than quantity.

At Rogue Disposal & Recycling, we’re dedicated to providing a sustainable curbside recycling program, now and into the future. It’s been just over a year since we implemented changes limiting what could be tossed into our red-lid curbside roll carts for recycling. Because of issues like contamination, sorting problems and lack of demand, global markets for a number of items we used to accept at the curb no longer exist — with the once massive Chinese market for recyclable materials virtually gone. So we refocused our curbside program on materials we know CAN be recycled. This includes corrugated cardboard, milk jug style containers and newspaper, plus tin and aluminum cans.

One year in: How’s it going?

Laura Leebrick, governmental and community affairs manager for Rogue Disposal & Recycling was able to provide an encouraging update. After a year’s worth of quarterly audits, it’s clear that customers have taken the message to heart and have adapted their recycling practices accordingly.

The company’s first audit in March of 2018 — right after the program kicked off — revealed that acceptable recycling materials made up just 52% of the samples. The remainder of what was being dumped into the curbside carts was items that were no longer accepted (23%) and garbage (25%).

Fast-forward to December of 2018. During that audit, the numbers had improved dramatically — with marketable materials reaching 73%.

“Customers are doing the right thing,” said Leebrick. “Clearly, people have paid attention to the educational information we’ve provided and they’re complying.”

Making a difference

The global markets for recyclable materials will likely remain unstable for years to come. But if we can keep working with our customers on cleaning up our commingle stream here at home, we stand a good chance of being able to continue to find homes for the recyclables we collect at the curb.

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