Science & Environment

Oregon’s recycling system is getting an update. Packaging makers will help pay for it.

By Monica Samayoa (OPB)
Aug. 14, 2021 1 p.m.

Oregon is about to overhaul its recycling system to make it simpler for consumers who want to keep their empty soup cans, used shipping boxes and old yogurt tubs from going to the landfill.

The Plastic Pollution and Recycling Modernization Act, or Senate Bill 582, also makes it easier for people to access recycling services, calls for upgrading facilities that sort recyclables, increases recycling education, and creates a statewide collection list. The law was signed on Aug. 6 by Oregon Gov. Kate Brown.


One of the biggest changes is a requirement that companies pay part of the cost of recycling the packaging they produce, making Oregon the second state to impose such a mandate. Packaging producers will also be required to provide recycling services for hard to recycle materials.

“That might be through recycling collection events around the state, drop off locations, return to retail — taking things back to the grocery store,” Oregon Department of Environmental Quality natural resource specialist Sanne Stienstra said.


The update to the recycling system will create transparency between packaging producers and recycling companies for the first time, Stienstra said.

“People across the state are going to have more and better recycling services. They’re going to have an easier time knowing what to recycle and how,” she said. “And they’re not going to pay more for it.”

Kristin Leichner is the chair for the Association of Oregon Recyclers, which supported the legislation. She said another key component to the bill is the creation of a 15-member “truth in labeling” task force that will work on creating more clarity around the labeling in plastic products, like the “chasing arrows” symbol that appears on plastic packaging and containers.

A mixed recycling container.

A mixed recycling container.

Allison Frost / OPB

“The chasing arrows with the numbers inside only designate what kind of plastic a product is made from, not whether or not it can be recycled locally,” she said. “So that creates a lot of confusion amongst customers and we’re hoping this truth in labeling task force will be able to clear that up.”

The Plastic Pollution and Recycling Modernization Act will begin to go into effect starting next year but Oregonians won’t see changes until at least 2025. Once the changes are fully implemented, DEQ expects an increase of about 17% in Oregon’s recycling of products.