Baker County residents and businesses produced slightly less trash last
year than in 2006, but they recycled quite a lot more of it.
Overall, the county recycled 24.4 percent of its refuse during 2007,
according to the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality.
That's an increase of 5.6 percent from 2006.
It's also the second-highest rate DEQ has recorded since it started measuring recycling in 1992.
Baker County's highest rate was 25 percent in 1996.
County residents generated 16,403 tons of garbage during 2007 and they
recycled 3,673 tons of cardboard, glass and other stuff - 32 percent
more than the previous year's total of 2,783 tons.
(The 2007 figures equate to a recycling rate of 22.4 percent, but DEQ
adds a 2-percent "credit" to Baker County's rate due to Baker Sanitary
Service's free yard debris dumping program.)
The 2007 tonnage is Baker County's heaviest for any year except 2005, when residents recycled 3,756 tons.
Baker County's 2007 statistics represent a welcome reversal from the previous year's.
Last fall DEQ announced that the county's recycling rate dropped by 6 percent in 2006, to 18.8 percent, and that residents recycled almost 1,000 tons less than the year before.
Those figures puzzled Loren Henry, president of Baker Sanitary Service.
(Henry could not be reached for comment in time for this story.)
Henry's company collects trash in much of the county, owns the county's largest landfill and takes in more than half of the county's recyclables at its recycling center at 12th and Campbell streets in Baker City.
Baker Sanitary Service's books showed that collections during 2006 at the company's recycling center were down by just 273 tons from the previous year. That decline accounted for less than one-third of the county's overall drop in recycling.
The explanation, according to DEQ, was that companies other than Baker Sanitary Service collected much less recyclable material - primarily cardboard and used motor oil - during 2006 than in 2005.
In 2007, by contrast, Baker County recycled 401 tons more newsprint and other paper than the year before, Perry said. The total for scrap metal increased by 362 tons, cardboard by 209 tons, and glass by 116 tons, she said.
The Oregon Legislature has passed a law setting recycling goals for Oregon counties by 2009.
Baker County's goal is 25 percent.
If the county fails to meet that goal then DEQ could require Baker Sanitary Service to offer curbside pickup of recyclables in Baker City.
Baker City is the only Oregon city with more than 5,000 residents where curbside recycling is not available.
Henry has estimated that adding curbside recycling would boost the bills by about $4 per month for his company's residential customers.