Nearly 600 tons of the city's plastic bags, textiles, batteries and block foam went to the landfill in 2020.

PMG FILE PHOTO - Workers at Far West Fibers do the initial sort of co-mingled recycled products in 2008.

No matter how ecologically conscious you think you are, avoiding personal landfills of clothes, old holiday light strands and plastic clamshell containers can be a taxing endeavor.

More than 80,000 tons of solid waste were collected in Beaverton in 2020, according to a city staff report. Nearly 600 residential tons of so-called hard-to-recycle materials, like plastic bags, textiles, batteries and block foam, all went to the landfill.

Beaverton city leaders are exploring ways to change the way these materials are collected.

The city's current recycling program is a "two-sort system." That means recyclable papers, plastics and metals are mixed in one bin, while glass items are kept in a separate bin.

Until 2017, residents were able to take other materials like plastic bags, clothes and certain takeout boxes to a recycling depot off Southwest Denney Road, operated by Far West Recycling. The facility closed after the property was sold to a new owner who wasn't able to renew their lease, forcing residents to go outside city limits to properly recycle those materials.

The city's current trash and recycling services are provided by five private companies under a franchise system, giving the city regulatory authority over the collection process.

Ridwell, a Seattle-based recycling company that collects hard-to-recycle materials, recently expanded its operations to Oregon. The company offers a subscription model program and picks up materials every other week from residences that pay for the service. Subscribers pay between $12 and $16 per month, according to the company's website.

Ridwell partners with a variety of different companies that finds use for hard-to-recycle materials. Some local partnerships include PDX Diaper Bank, Children's Book Bank and WashCo Bikes. Earlier this year, the company expanded its biweekly services to Portland.

Beaverton could possibly adopt a new code that would grant licenses for companies like Ridwell to collect designated materials, but city councilors appear hesitant to embrace that option.

The major concern expressed during a Beaverton City Council meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 21, is how Beaverton would regulate the collection process.

"Having a private entity taking some of these materials and taking them some place doesn't really give me that warm and fuzzy sense that someplace is a good place, and that it's going to be a place that is subject to scrutiny and subject to careful review by appropriate, environmentally sensitive authorities," said Beaverton City Councilor Marc San Soucie.

Councilors instead want to explore increasing the capacity of Beaverton's existing haulers.

The Oregon Refuse & Recycling Association, which represents Beaverton's five franchise haulers, proposed expanding collection services in two stages.

The first phase would act as a "will-call" service, where customers could call for a one-time pick-up of materials as needed. ORRA has yet to state which items would be accepted but estimates the cost of each pick-up to be between $7 and $10.

The second phase of the proposal would expand these services citywide as part of the standard collection process. Rates would be determined by the city.

Beaverton Mayor Lacey Beat said she wants to see the city's haulers at the table before moving forward with a new collection process.

"Our haulers have shown up in the last 18 months during the pandemic and never missed a beat," she said. "They showed up during wildfires, they showed up during snow, they showed up in 115-degree heat and they've shown up on holidays."

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