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China, which had been buying most of nation's recycling, has stopped the practice, forcing changes

JASON CHANEY - Recycling programs locally and throughout the country likley to make changes due to decision by China to stop purchasing materials.A decision overseas figures to impact Prineville Disposal and what it does with any recycling it collects going forward.

During a presentation to Prineville City Council in early May, owner Steve Holliday said that China, a primary purchaser of recycled materials throughout the country, has decided to stop the practice.

"They have been, for quite a few years, the main buyer of recycling," he said. "They are really cracking down on what they are accepting, and (this month) they quit taking anything."

Holliday explained that the decision is spurred by the amount of trash that is found in the recycled material.

"That is what the biggest complaint or concern is," he said. "There is just too much trash."

The presence of unwanted trash starts down at the local level where Prineville Disposal collects it from the green-lidded cans provided for recycled materials.

"The homeowner puts (recyclable items) in the cans, we bale it and we send it to a mill and they sort it. They have all of the high-tech facilities to sort it," he said.

Historically, China has purchased the sorted materials, but now that they have chosen not to for a month or possibly longer, Prineville Disposal leaders are now looking at processing the material on site and finding different buyers.

"We are still a small community and make small enough volumes that we might be able to handle that ourselves and just internally sort it and then find a market for each individual product," Holliday said. "I am pretty hopeful that is what we will be able to do and take out the middle man."

Prineville Mayor Betty Roppe asked if Prineville Disposal could mount an educational campaign to prevent customers from putting trash in the recycling bins.

"It's a daily thing," Holliday said. "The drivers have stacks of gentle reminders."

Councilor Steve Uffelman noted that the company had to prohibit putting glass containers in the recycle bins because of the amount of trash people would leave in the containers.

"It was getting abused," Holliday said of the glass recycling option, "which is unfortunate."

On Prineville Disposal's website, people can find a list of items that are accepted for recycling and another list of materials that are not. Prohibited items include any tissue or toilet paper as well as paper towels and napkins, waxed or plastic coated paper or cardboard and pizza boxes or other food-soiled papers and cardboard. Styrofoam products cannot be recycled locally, nor can plastic grocery bags, food takeout containers or vegetable tray lids.

Holliday explained that the limitations have to do with whether the item in question is contaminated by food, difficult and expensive to sort. He urges people to familiarize themselves with the list of acceptable and non-acceptable materials and consider each item before putting it in the recycle cans.

"Think twice before you put that item in there," he said.

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