As the county’s Solid Waste Program Manager, and thereby the individual tasked with overseeing and coordinating recycling and garbage operations in Tillamook County, I feel obliged to respond to an article in the Dec. 4 issue of the Headlight Herald (Oregon generating more waste, recycling less, p. A9).

The report cited is the “State of Recycling in Oregon,” but its 14 pages include only a few paragraphs of Oregon content. The majority of the report – while correct – relays general information relating to the entire nation. Unfortunately for local readers, no local information is provided. We know that living in Tillamook County is quite different than downtown Portland, where recycling, composting, and other services are more easily accessible. It is important to provide our local residents with local information, to better understand the whole story, and how we fit into it.

It is true that we landfill about one ton of waste for every full-time resident living in Tillamook County. Statewide (or national) reports note only the increase in quantities of waste generated, or that locally our quantities have increased on a per capita basis. No mention is made of the increase in tourism experienced in Tillamook County, which naturally results in additional waste, and is divided amongst our full-time residents.

When the Department of Environmental Quality releases its 2018 report in a few weeks, we will see that despite the financial collapse of recycling markets throughout the world, the quantity of materials recovered in Tillamook County has increased each year during the past three years. Locally we have actually increased our recovery rate since 2016 from 26.1 percent to approximately  28 percent. Due in part to our rural setting, less than 2 percent of our waste is subjected to energy recovery. What we call recycling is truly recycled or composted – and anyone asserting that we send our recycling to a landfill is just generating fake news.

Tillamook County has a recycling program that is working, and is sometimes seen as an example in the industry. A small, dedicated team of staff members are complimented by committed haulers and operators and two dozen Master Recyclers, all of whom do their part in helping ensure that businesses and the public throughout Tillamook County have a viable, sustainable system in place.

Even though our recycling system may not be as convenient as the curbside programs offered in most urban areas, we have opportunities available to each and every resident of Tillamook County throughout the year. Together we can continue to increase our recycling numbers, and preserve the natural environment we cherish. Never before have I encountered a community that cares so much about preserving its natural environment – and that care translates into caring about recycling.

Thank you for doing your part in ensuring that Tillamook County’s program remains a leader, and for realizing that there’s more to the story than can be gleaned from a short national report.

David McCall is the Tillamook County Solid Waste Program manager.

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