With the advent of the COVID-19 crisis, even conscious consumers don’t always have the liberty of making conscious decisions, leaving a purchase on the shelf for environmental reasons. Many are now in something close to survival mode when making purchases, and their usual focus on reducing waste may not be at the top of their present hierarchy of needs. That’s understandable. However, the important work that BRING Recycling in Eugene, OR and many other environmental stewards stand for is ongoing.

Executive Director of BRING Recycling, Carolyn Stein’s own consumer tendencies are in line with the state’s top priority in its materials management hierarchy: to reduce waste. That hierarchy, embedded in Oregon’s Opportunity to Recycle Act, should be familiar to many Oregonians — reduce, reuse, recycle, followed by compost, recover, dispose.

“BRING’s programs have always been about waste prevention. We participated in the development of the state’s 2050 Vision,” Stein says, referring to the “Materials Management in Oregon: 2050 Vision and Framework for Action,” adopted in 2012. “It drives all of our work currently, so all of our programs really focus on waste prevention and the idea of the circular economy.”

The England-based Ellen MacArthur Foundation cites the components of the circular economy as designing out waste and pollution, keeping products and materials in use, and regenerating natural systems. A product’s end of life, the circular economy espouses, is the shared responsibility among product makers (aka producers), recycling processors, and consumers. These practices turn away from the linear way of making products, which entails extracting resources, making the product, and leaving the responsibility of disposal in large part to the consumer.

BRING actively participates in the circular economy. The nonprofit sells used construction materials at a low cost in its store and repurposes reclaimed materials for community construction projects. When Claim 52 Brewing, for example, renovated 1201 Willamette Street, BRING reclaimed the site’s original tongue-and-groove wood ceiling, passing it along to Charlie and Julie Tilt, owners of the innovative Mahonia Building, who used the wood for their building trim. “The circular economy is a very broad concept and idea, and we’re just one little piece of that,” Stein allows.

To read the full story, visit https://www.registerguard.com/special/20200407/bluechip-efforts-to-modernize-recycling-system-consider-climate-change–product-life-cycle-and-producer-responsibility.
Author: Christine Sherk, The Register-Guard
Photo: City of Eugene