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Portland not state leader in waste reduction in 2011

Lane and Marion counties beat out the Portland area last year for recycling and reusing waste and keeping garbage out of the landfill.

A new study by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality found Oregonians recovered more than half their muncipal waste last year — 52.3 percent — the highest since the state started measuring in 1992.

Per-capita waste statewide dropped to 1,264 pounds, also the lowest amount every recorded.

Lane County had the highest waste reduction rate, at 61.5 percent, among 35 areas measured, DEQ reported. Marion County was next-best at 60.8 percent, followed by the Portland area at 59.3 percent.

Portlanders started recycling kitchen waste at the curbside last Halloween, and also doubled pickups of yard debris. Those changes, along with the shift to garbage pickup every other week, have had a notable impact on reducing waste inside city limits. But the changes began late last year, so it’s likely Portland will show up with a higher waste reduction rate for 2012.

DEQ’s study showed rural areas had the lowest recovery rates, in the range of 10 percent of 30 percent. But many of those areas showed an improvement in recycling and reuse in 2011 compared to the prior year.

The state’s success in recycling, along with production of energy from garbage, was equivalent to 253 million gallons of gasoline last year, roughly 3.2 percent of the total energy consumed in Oregon.

Reduction of trash reduced greenhouse gases the equivalent of 2.8 million metric tons of carbon dioxide. That’s equal to the tailpipe emissions from 580,000 cars, or 4 percent of all statewide greenhouse gas emissions in Oregon last year.