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How much are we recycling?

Planning and conservation    Managing garbage and recycling    How much are we recycling?

Find statistics about waste that is recycled and landfilled from the metro region. These data are collected annually by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality.

In 2008 (the most recent data available), 56.8 percent of the waste generated in the Metro region was recovered or prevented (down from 55.1 percent in 2007). The Metro region has a recovery goal of 64 percent by 2009.

Download the 2008 material recovery and waste report from the DEQ site

2008 Metro region overview

Total waste generated: 2,434,840 tons
Waste landfilled: 1,198,916 tons
Waste recovered: 1,235,924 tons

Materials collected for recycling, composting or energy recovery account for 50.8 percent of the Metro region's overall recovery rate of 56.8 percent; backyard composting, waste prevention and reuse activities carried out through regional campaigns and local programs account for the remaining six percent.

The region recycled and disposed of less in 2008 than the previous year, both total and per capita in this recession year. Total generation was down 9.8 percent. Per capita generation fell 11 percent to 1.51 tons.

Twenty materials experienced decreased recovery, with the leaders being wood (-69,103 tons) scrap metal (-17,104 tons), corrugated cardboard (-9,768 tons) and glass containers (-5,393 tons). Recovery of ten materials increased, collecting 21,000 more tons in 2008 over 2007. The materials registering the largest gains in 2008 were yard debris (7,247 tons; a combination of brush, grass and leaves), food (4,845 tons), paper fiber (2,891 tons); a combination of newspaper, high grade paper and other bleached paper) and tires (2,4983 tons).

How will we reach 64 percent?

Metro, local governments and the solid waste industry are focusing staff and financial resources on three sectors where the most opportunity for increased recovery remain: organics (food from restaurants, grocery stores and food distributors), paper and containers from businesses, and construction and demolition waste. The Regional Solid Waste Management Plan also includes strategies for increasing recovery from residential curbside and multi-family recycling.

Download the Regional Solid Waste Management Plan (PDF 2MB)

Metro program highlights


  • More than 180,000 tons of food waste are sent to the landfill each year – half from businesses. Additionally, another 40,000 tons of waxedcardboard and compostable paper were disposed.
  • Food waste recovery was up 50.0 percent in 2008 reaching 14,390 tons credited towards our wasteshed. However, there was no siting of a regional composer that could accept food in 2008.
  • Metro continues to support food donation through its Fork It Over program. To help keep edible food out of the waste stream, more than90 Portland metropolitan area businesses have signed up to be regular food donors.

More about Fork It Over!

Business recycling

  • Businesses in the Portland metropolitan area recycled 75% of paper and containers in 2005.
  • However, more than 100,000 tons of recyclable resources (paper and containers) from businesses are disposed annually. To reach the 64 percent goal, businesses must recycle an additional 80,000 tons of paper and containers.
  • All businesses in the region have access to recycling service with their garbage collection. The Metro Council did pass a policy of mandatory recycling of paper and containers for businesses, which called for regional adoption by local governments. The effect of this policy will not be felt the latter half of 2009.This policy implementation is equivalent to a 90 percent recycling rate for these materials, or the 80,000 tons of paper and containers.
  • Since 2000, Metro has invested over $4.1 million in on-site recycling specialists to provide free recycling assistance to area businesses through the Recycle at Work initiative.

Recycle at Work

  • More than 97,000 desk side and central recycling containers have been distributed to businesses throughout the region since 2003 by the Recycle at Work staff.

Construction and demolition

  • Contractors dispose of approximately 250,000 tons – or 95,000 drop box loads – of construction and demolition debris every year. About 50 percent of this waste could be reused, recycled or burned for energy.
  • In 2008, 261,600 tons of construction and demolition waste were recovered, down almost 10 percent from the 289,000 tons in 2007. About two-thirds of this total was source separated by the generator, while the remaining one-third was mixed with waste and later recovered by the processor. The downturn was mostly due to the depressed new construction.
  • The Metro Council passed a policy that all dry waste should be processed prior to disposal and that cardboard, metal and wood should not exceed 15 percent in residue. It is expected 75 percent of these three targeted materials would result in 33,000 tons of new recovery.
  • Metro continues its outreach and assistance to contractors and builders,including publications that help the industry plan for and manage construction debris.The Metro Toolkit, Smart Start and Succeed With LEED are free and available in print and electronic formats.

More about managing construction waste

  • Building material reuse continues to be the preferred way of managing construction debris. In a recent survey of the region's used building material retailers, they reported handling approximately 10,700 tons of mostly residential used building materials in 2008, up 30 percent from the previous year.


Residential recycling

In 2008, curbside recycling increased 6 percent. Over 2,000 more tons of paper and containers and 12,000 tons of yard debris were collected in 2008 than in 2007. By the end of 2008, more than 90 percent of local jurisdictions in the region had replaced their two-bin recycling systems with wheeled carts to capture almost 78 percent of commingled recyclables from curbside programs, which was up from 66 percent in 2005, on average. For more information about residential programs, contact your local government solid waste and recycling agency.

Find local government contacts

For more information about the DEQ annual waste recovery report, contact Marylou Perry at 503-229-5731 or 1-800-452-4011, ext. 5731.

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