The story of your waste 

From left: Nic Dahl, owner of Loren’s Sanitation, Sean Edmonds, the COO of Re:Source; Dan Strandy and Kevin Hines, facility manager. Photo by LYNDON ZAITZ of the Keizertimes

When someone in your household takes out the trash or puts items in the recycling bin, that is usually the last time anyone thinks about what happens next.

But, there are people who think about what happens after you throw away your trash and recyclable products. 

Re: Source,the new name for Marion Resource Recovery Facility (MRRF), located on Brooklake Road north of Keizer, the county’s premier facility for waste management, is a leader in recycling and the only site of its kind in Oregon. 

The facility is jointly owned by the county’s eight waste haulers including Loren’s Sanitation and Valley Recycling and Disposal. 

The facility was originally built for demolition and construction waste recovery. In 2019, Marion County contracted the site to manage the county’s transfer station waste; that increased tonnage nine-fold. 

Marion County has experienced major growth in waste since 2000. That year, the facility was able to divert 7,000 tons of waste from ending up in a landfill. By 2023, that grew to 75,000 tons. It is expected to divert more than 125,000 tons by 2038. Beginning in 2023 Re:Source began accepting public waste volumes. 

Consumer habits and population growth has led to the increase in waste in the county. Shipments of online purchases have increasingly grown with the advent of online retailers such as Amazon. 

A facility expansion project was completed at a cost of $25 million in 2021. The expansion replaced outdated processing equipment, installation of a compactor to reduce cost and carbon footprint and a facility footprint expansion to accommodate more diverse functions, which extended beyond the original scope of handling demolition and construction waste. 

The expansion formed the cornerstone of the facility’s approach to delivering sustainable waste management solutions, while upholding economic stability through astute financial stewardship. 

This is evident by the owner’s commitment in reinvesting; over 94% of the profits are invested back into the facility’s operation. 

The legacy of Re: Source is adaptation. It has grown into a multifaceted waste management hub, embodying its mission to serve Marion County and emerging as a cornerstone of sustainable waste management practices. 

What once ended up in landfills here in the county and other locations in the Willamette Valley, much of it is now diverted to the Brooklake facility. 

There is a lot of landfill capacity available, but some of those are nearing the end of their lifespan. Getting approval for landfill expansions gets increasingly difficult due to government regulations and public outcry. 

“We are facing the reality of the waste generated within Marion County is going to have to go to Eastern Oregon or eastern Washington very soon,” said Nic Dahl, owner of Loren’s Sanitation. 

“The best way to keep that carbon footprint down is to pull out as much waste as possible from needing to go to landfills, because all the recycling and reprocessing facilities are here within the Willamette Valley. Much, uh, better carbon footprint to recover as much as we can.” 

Marion County has it good, though. In Portland Metro, the proposed rate will be $153 a ton. Marion County is currently at $87 per ton. 

“We are not immune to inflation,” said Dahl, “We are dealing with cost increases going 23 years with a single price adjustment, not a sustainable business model.” 

The managers and haulers know they need to tell their story better to the public. 

“We’re trying to make it a little bit easier for a community to know what we are.” 

They know the future of recycling and waste management starts with the younger generations. The facility has a person on staff that is going to be focused on tours, driving education for children and getting them into places like Re:Source so they can help them realize what is going on here and that their decisions and choices do matter. 

“Go home and teach mom and dad,” said Nic Dahl, owner of Loren’s Sanitation. 

The facility is in the process of developing an education room for elementary school students to visit and see what happens to the waste and recyclables their homes produce. 

From the soon-to-be opened education room with viewing windows of the plant floor the public can watch what happens to the thousands of tons of waste. A mountain of waste is delivered by haulers into an open-air space, the tipping floor. A crane operator then grabs a bucket full and place it on a conveyor belt on its way to processing. 

Re:Source is a success when it comes to recycling. In 2018 the facility recovered 18 tons of appliances, 1,000 tons of cardboard, over 1,200 tons of concrete and almost 3,000 tons of ferrous and non-ferrous metals. All of which, decades ago, will have ended up in landfills, leaching toxic chemicals into the ground. 

“The next generation can see this facility and understand what type of recycling is out there, and then the responsibility we have to the environment.” 

An operator loads part of a mountain of debris and trash onto a conveyor belt to go to processing. Photo by LYNDON ZAITZ of the Keizertimes

Kevin Hines, the facility manager tells the story of a residential yard waste service. 

“It’s probably the most successful in creating a circular economy, introduced about 20 years ago into Oregon,” said Hines. 

“What happens to that yard waste? You take it to your curb and it disappears. In Marion County it goes to Re:Source,” said Strandy. 

It is reloaded into a 25 ton loads, then taken down to Adair Village at Pacific Region Compost, which processes roughly 50,000 tons from Marion County of green waste into a compost. That processing time takes about two months. That finished compost then is sold into three main outlets, one into retail, that’s a small part of the market,. Another part is large bagging brands you would find at Lowe’s-type retailers, which will process it, screen out any minor contaminants in there, it would then go into bags that you could purchas at Home Depot or Lowe’s.” 

Dahl said, “I think the biggest thing is a lot of what people call wishful recycling, There are only so many things that can go in your recycle bin at home, but people see something and they think, ‘Well, that looks like it should be recyclable.’ 

“Just because it’s got that recycle triangle and the number on it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s recyclable.” 

The process of waste takes quite a journey. Within Marion County, almost all the waste, regardless what it is, comes through the Brooklake facility, most of the waste goes there. Then it is sent to the next best home; sometimes it’s an end destination, like a landfill. Sometimes it’s an end destination, like a processing facility for green waste. They’re going to create the end product and take it to the agriculture market. In some cases it’s going to another facility like a Pioneer Recycling which then has more processing capability to pull out even a cleaner material, then it is sold into another market. Some of the waste travels through five or six different homes before it is actually reprocessed into its new life form. 

A contemporary mantra is reduce, reuse and recycle, all of which starts in households. 

When someone in a home takes out the trash, they can be secure in the knowledge there are experts in the area taking care of it to the benefit of the environment. 

Contact Publisher Lyndon Zaitz:
[email protected] or 503-390-1051

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