Many who recycle their bottles, cans, plastic, newspapers or cardboard may only have a cursory idea of the industry and supply chain behind the endeavor. A surprising amount of local Tillamook County history resides in recycling and the people who helped make it what it is today.
Spanning back into the 1970s, there were efforts in Tillamook County to bring recycling to the small coastal communities, but it wasn’t easy per se. It wasn’t until the mid-1980s when people started waking up to the fact that there are better things to do with certain types of refuse.
“Before 1985 the particular type of garbage disposal that you could find in the county was pretty primitive,” Dora Norwood, longtime resident, said. “Back then it was customary to simply find a cliff in the forest and get rid of it.”
Saddened by the lack of action in regards to recycling materials, Norwood decided to get together with a few others and become what would turn out to be the figureheads of local recycling efforts. It wasn’t until the county created what is now the main garbage landfill that Norwood saw an avenue for progress. By lobbying the county in saying that if the citizens had to pay to dump their garbage at the landfill, then they had to pay for recycling as well, she took it upon herself to use an old pickup truck and go door to door looking for recycling materials.
Shortly after her work began hauling recycling, Norwood started to catch the eyes of other garbage haulers – and subsequently the media. By the early 1990s, Norwood was approached by the then-editor of the Headlight-Herald to run a weekly column on recycling, her column was a draw for readers and before too long the Tillamook County Solid Waste added recycling to its official efforts.
Eventually, the market forces that dictate the buying cost of recyclable material began to wane and the price dipped to a new low.
“After the price for recycles dropped the Averill transfer station was no longer able to pay for recycles,” Norwood said.
A hauler’s perspective
Another of the area’s figureheads of recycling is Eleanor Dye of Nestucca Valley Sanitary Service.
“Back then recycling wasn’t what it is today, people would discard useful things and others would simply wash them off and use them,” Dye said. “Nothing was separated, people just reused everything they could.”
Talking about another facet of the local recycling history in Tillamook County, Dye said since day one with recycling, the garbage haulers have been at the forefront of the wave of change. What started out with one additional truck to pick up recycles turned into a considerable devotion of manpower and resources for the small utility company.
Over time the market price for recycles dropped even more and the return of doing recycles plummeted for haulers, so Dye decided to get involved and helped install recycling shacks throughout the county so people could simply do it themselves. This model was adopted elsewhere and a small recycling revolution was born. It took a great deal of labor out of the hands of the small South Tillamook County garbage company, which allowed them to return those savings to their customers. In addition to the shacks Dye helped install, they also got together to create the very first Oregon beach cleanup effort. The model was eventually adopted by organizations like SOLV and are still quite active today in facilitating beach area cleanups, as well as inland watersheds as well.
Dye feels the process should be slightly changed to “Reduce, reuse and only then recycle.” She said that would help the problem because, at the end of the day, they are still the ones moving the material to the next phase of the recycles process.
“We’re not against recycling, not by a long shot, we believe in it,” Dye said. “But the programs need to be realistic and economically sustainable.”