A paper mill closure in Newberg is affecting some recycling customers in the Portland region, who have lost their main option for recycling scrap wood.
On Oct. 15, the WestRock paper mill in Newberg announced it would close indefinitely on Nov. 15. That facility, formerly known as the SP Paper Mill, received approximately 85 percent of the greater Portland area’s recovered wood, burning much of it to fuel boilers that produce both steam and electricity for the plant.
With no other facility readily available to receive and process the amount of wood waste that WestRock managed, the closure poses significant challenges for the Portland area’s wood markets and overall wood recycling efforts.
Rules from Metro and the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality prohibit Portland-area facilities that take wood waste from sending the wood to a landfill. Some wood products, like 2x4 wall studs and other untreated and unpainted wood, has greatest reuse value in new construction. Treated, painted and stained woods, such as what is found in fences, decks and old siding, has very limited reusable value and is often burned as fuel. The same can be said for processed wood products like plywood and particle board.
With very limited re-use markets for treated or processed wood, facilities that collect this wood from households and businesses have very few choices, other than disposal in a landfill, to avoid having to stockpile the material and take up space for other materials, such as metal and yard debris, that have market value.
In the short term, to help mitigate the impacts of the WestRock closure, DEQ is allowing wood waste that would otherwise be burned as industrial fuel to be disposed in a landfill. Untreated wood that can be reused in new construction and other applications must still be averted from the landfill and recycled. The Metro Council may take further action to address processing requirements for wood waste generated within the greater Portland area.
As of Nov. 1, Metro will accept raw dimensional lumber, pallets and crates at Metro Central and Metro South transfer stations at the normal wood-only rate ($51.56 per ton) and set it aside for reuse. Treated, painted, stained and engineered wood (such as plywood and particle board) and loads containing a variety of non-wood materials will be charged at full garbage rates ($94.98 per ton) and sent to landfills for disposal.
Metro will continue to work closely with recycling facilities, waste haulers, DEQ and local governments to find new places – other than landfills – to take wood that cannot be reused or recycled.