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After a close call earlier this month, Far West Recycling says it has been able to bring down operating costs

REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Yard Boss Skip Stewart sorts through donated electronics at the Far West Recycling center next to Foothills Park. The facility accepts a wide variety of recyclable materials that can't be collected from curbside bins.It was a close call, but officials at Far West Recycling now say that the Lake Oswego recycling center next to Foothills Park will remain open for the foreseeable future.

“There were a lot of question marks about it for a while,” Far West President Keith Ristau told The Review last week. “With the high cost of running that thing and commodity markets being so low, we were losing quite a bit of money per month. We had to do something.”

The company’s 10-year lease on the Lake Oswego site at 341 Foothills Road is set to expire at the end of this month, and Ristau says Far West was unable to commit to running such a costly operation for another decade. But just a few weeks before the planned Aug. 31 closure date, the company was able to work out a deal with the property’s landlord to switch to a month-to-month lease, giving it a chance to test out several cost-saving measures that officials believe will allow the center to remain open.

Instead of using bins from Oregon Paper Fiber, Far West will add its own dumpsters to the site, and Ristau says the company has already begun hauling the dumpsters away using its own trucks instead of hiring the work out. Starting in September, the company also plans to introduce a baseline fee for all customers who drop off recycling. The exact amount is still being decided, but Ristau says it will be somewhere around $2 per visit.

“We did everything we could to get the cost down,” says Ristau. “If everybody chipped in $2, we could probably break even, which is all we want. It’s not a for-profit corporation; it’s more of a community service than anything.”

According to Yard Boss Skip Stewart, the Lake Oswego center collects about 18 tons of material per month, whereas the company’s larger facilities bring in 30-40 tons. But 18 tons is still a sizable amount for a city the size of Lake Oswego, and Stewart says he also sees visitors from nearby cities like Wilsonville and Sherwood, so the loss of the site would’ve meant a longer drive for a lot of customers.

“If we closed down,” says Stewart, “the next closest facility is at Highway 217 and Denny Road (in Beaverton), and no one wants to fight the 217 traffic.”

The decision to remain open comes as welcome news to Stewart, who singlehandedly manages the lot on weekdays. He’s been working at the Lake Oswego center for four years, and he says he feels invested in the site, having personally built several improvements to the office and sorting areas.

“This has gotten to be home,” he says. “I put in a lot of blood, sweat and tears into this place down here. It was good when I got here, but it’s even better now.”

The change of plans will also come as a relief to residents and City staff, many of whom rely on the facility to dispose of materials that can’t be collected in regular recycling, such as CD cases from the library and old technology from the IT department.

“We had quite a few residents write emails and come into City Hall and contact councilors (after Far West announced the closure),” says Jenny Slepian, the City’s sustainability fellow. “There were a lot of people who were really upset that they were going to close.”

The plant is open from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. seven days per week and accepts a wide variety of recyclable materials, including 1-7 numbered plastic, mixed paper, cardboard, glass, aluminum, scrap metal and even most electronic appliances such as TVs and computers. The only exceptions are Styrofoam, PVC, fiberglass and rubber coolant hoses — those have to be taken to Far West’s larger facility in Beaverton.

“Anything with a plug,” says Stewart. “If you can get it down here, I can take it.”

Stewart says he hopes the facility will become better known in the future. The site is popular among residents who know about it, but its remote location near Foothills Park makes it a bit difficult to find.

Stewart and Ristau both say they hope the company can eventually have signs installed on State Street to direct customers to the center.

“A lot of people still don’t know we’re here,” Stewart says. “I think if Lake Oswego really gets behind us down here, and if we get the word out, then I think we’ll be here permanently. I’m here to help anyone who walks through the door.”

Contact Anthony Macuk at 503-636-1281 ext. 108 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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