PSU continues to support recycling centers despite decreasing demand

Portland State will continue using recycling facilities, in spite of decreased demand for recyclable materials caused by a souring economy and the need for recyclables in China and the rest of Asia.

Portland State will continue using recycling facilities, in spite of decreased demand for recyclable materials caused by a souring economy and the need for recyclables in China and the rest of Asia.

The spiraling economy is causing the market for recyclable material in Oregon and throughout the country to dry up, according to a recent Oregonian article. China and other Asian countries, driving forces for the export of recyclable materials from the United States, are demanding fewer materials, the article stated.

This won’t affect PSU’s stance on sustainability, according to Christel Eichner, resource management coordinator of PSU Recycles.

Eichner said PSU will keep making use of MRF, or materials recovery facility, recycling centers that are spread all over the Northwest.

“Recyclable material at Portland State will continue to be delivered to the local MRFs and diverted from the landfill even during this economic downturn,” she said.

Garrett Bishop, marketing director of a local facility, Environmental Fibers International, explained what his company does. All recyclable materials thrown into a single recycle bin must be separated–exactly what companies like Environmental Fibers International excel at, he said.

After materials are separated, they can then be sold to paper mills that work with particular products, Bishop said.

“You are essentially scrambling the egg, and then we unscramble it at our facility,” Bishop said.With demand for recyclable materials plummeting, however, materials in recycle centers such as Environmental Fiber International are quickly filling up, Bishop said.

Bishop said he attended a conference held by the Association of Oregon Recyclers, a local nonprofit group, last weekend in Salem to address that issue. Using a landfill would be the very, very last resort, he said.

“That is throwing money in the trash, and no one wants to do that,” Bishop said. “Plus, environmentally, it’s a bad decision.”

Eichner, who also attended the conference, said she has ideas as to how PSU can help local recycling businesses by delivering “cleaner” recyclable materials.

“PSU, as a large generator of recyclable paper, plastic and aluminum, can help our local businesses by improving the quality of material and providing cleaner loads to them,” Eichner said. “That simply means keeping materials like disposable coffee cups, single plastic bags, bottle caps and trash out of our recycling containers on campus.”

One example would be keeping glass separate from other recyclable materials. Another way everyone can help is to focus on waste-minimization, said Eichner.

“That simply translates into using double-sided paper, choosing the tap versus bottled water and bringing your coffee cup to school,” she said.

Bishop said he wanted to see new businesses forming in Portland that utilize recyclable material, so that we aren’t so reliant on the market coming back in places such as China and India.

Bishop talked about a pulp molding company in Corvallis that turns old paper into pulp and then makes it into egg crates or packaging–it’s progressive-thinking businesses like this one that Portland needs, he said.For example, there aren’t any plastic mills in Oregon, Bishop said.

“Plastic could be used for injection molding,” said Bishop. “It could be melted down and turned into parking lots which would begin to eliminate the need for asphalt. You could turn it [plastic] back into parts, cell phone covers or even tables for businesses.”

Bishop said at least 100 restaurants around Portland have eclectic tabletops, which a new company could specialize in.

“We need somebody to say, ‘OK, I’m manufacturing these,'” he said.

Bishop said universities and college students should put their heads together in order to come up with solutions for this.

“We need new ideas coming out all the time,” said Bishop. “When you really look at these issues, those are the ways that it’s going to get solved.”