The Salem, Ore., Statesman Journal came out in favor of changes to the state's container recycling law in a Feb. 17 editorial. The column acknowledges changes in the packaging market since the state's bottle bill was passed in 1971 -- which happened to be the nation's first.
Far-seeing though they were, lawmakers of the '70s neglected to require a deposit for wine bottles and juice bottles, among others. What's more, those legislators never could have imagined the way plastic containers would take over our lives. We swig green tea, iced tea, milk, fruit juice, sports drinks and protein shakes from plastic bottles. Above all, we chug plain old water -- stuff we got free from a tap back in the '70s -- enough to send 34 bottles to dumps yearly for every Oregonian. A use-it, toss-it mentality seems to have grown alongside this plastic revolution. Oregonians recycle only about one-fourth of our rigid plastic containers, down from about 30 percent in 1995. Bottles are clogging our landfills; they're going up in smoke at the Brooks trash burner. We're degrading our home for a little convenience.The editorial barely touches on the current dispute over whether the state's recycling rate is really under 25 percent. The bigger question, it seems, is why aren't Oregonians setting the pace in recycling anymore.