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Portland, OR—The state's goals to reduce the amount of waste Oregonians generate and increase the amount recovered were not realized in 2016, according to the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality's 2016 Oregon Material Recovery and Waste Generation Report. In 2016, Oregon recovered 2,266,556 tons of waste, representing 42.6 percent of all waste generated, a decrease from 46.2 percent recovered in 2015. The state's goal is to reach 52 percent recovery by 2020.

“Recycling and composting conserves resources, saves energy, and reduces pollution such as greenhouse gas emissions," says Michelle Shepperd, who has worked on this DEQ report for 25 years. “While preventing waste from happening in the first place is the best way to protect the environment, proper management of materials at the end of their life makes a big difference.”

Several factors contributed to last year's fluctuations. With an active economy and construction sector, Oregonians generated more waste than in 2015. However, wood waste recovery was about 89,000 tons less in 2016 than 2015, due to closure of the largest paper mill that accepted wood waste for fuel, and other companies moving to natural gas as a fuel instead of burning wood. Unexpectedly, cardboard recovery also decreased substantially, falling more than 43,000 tons or nearly 12 percent of the cardboard tonnage recovered in 2015. These factors contributed to the recovery rate's continued decline since its peak in 2012.

In 2016, Oregonians generated 5,316,989 tons of waste, up 2.7 percent from 2015. A total 3,050,432 tons of waste was disposed in landfills and incinerators, a 9.6 percent increase from 2015. Per-capita generation increased by 1.2 percent; missing the state goals of no increase in total generation and no increase in per-capita generation. Still, the amount of waste generated in 2016 was 412,000 tons less than the amount generated in the peak year of 2006.

Energy savings and greenhouse gas reductions from materials recovered for recycling, composting and energy recovery in 2016 were significant. Energy savings were comparable to 216 million gallons of gasoline or roughly 2.8 percent of Oregon's total 2016 energy use. Reductions in greenhouse gas emissions were estimated at 2.9 million metric tons of CO2 equivalents or 4.7 percent of net statewide emissions from all sources in 2016. Recycling produced most of these benefits.

This is DEQ's 25th annual report on the state of municipal post-consumer (residential and commercial) material recovery and waste generation in Oregon. The full report is available here:

Michelle Shepperd, Materials Management, DEQ, 503-229-6724,
Matthew Van Sickle, Public Information Officer, DEQ, 503-229-6044,


Environment & Energy