Oregon DEQ stats show recycling on the rise

But seniors were 'thinking green' before it became hip

Oregonians young and old recycling more

BEND, Ore. - A new report from the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality shows just how "green" Oregonians really are. According to the new statistics, all of the tri-county area exceeded goals set in 2009 for recycling.

Lane County took the top spot for the highest recycling rate in the entire state, at 61 percent.

Jefferson County was 11th in the state, recycling nearly half their waste. Deschutes County ranked 13th, recycling nearly 73 million tons of the 185 million tons of waste that was taken in.  

The president of Bend Garbage and Recycling, Brad Bailey, said Monday he believes the numbers would be even higher if not for the economy.

"I think people bought less things for their household. We've seen less refrigerators and appliances being recycled than in previous years," Bailey said. "But it's good to see the numbers come back up near where they were in 2009."

The survey showed across the state, we recycled almost as much as we threw away.

Often when we talk about the future of recycling we think "young," but NewsChannel 21 went the opposite way Monday, asking seniors at the Fox Hollow retirement home in Bend how they "think green."

From reusable grocery bags to reusable water bottles, going "green" got hip. But 96-year-old Nancy McLeod says she's been doing it all her life.

"We grew up with it, but it wasn't called recycling. It was just using it again," McLeod said.

Before cartoon-covered lunch boxes, McLeod was brown-bagging it, over and over again.

"We had to carefully fold them up, bring them home and use them again," McLeod said.

What's now often called reusing, McLeod and other seniors remember as recycling.

"When you live on a farm, and especially if you're poor, like everyone was back in those days, you just save everything,"  said Bend resident Bob Barker.

McLeod remembers when curbside pickup for bottles and cans started, and not everybody was excited.

"Most people just threw them in the ordinary trash any way, and so it took a while for that to catch on," she recalled.

Barker watched while recycling became a bigger challenge through the years, as consumerism grew.

"Back then, there wasn't quite as much throw-away stuff," said Barker. "You got toys in Cellophane, instead of the plastic boxes and the sets you get them now."

Times and terms have certainly changed, but it seems seniors like McLeod and Barker may have been trend-setters -- even if they didn't know it at the time.

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