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The City of Portland, Oregon

Sustainability at Work

Providing free tools and expertise to achieve your goals

Phone: 503-823-7037

Email: sustainabilityatwork@portlandoregon.gov

What happens to your recycling?

See what happens to recyclables after the recycling truck takes them away:

Sorting recyclables

In Portland, paper, cardboard, metal, and plastic bottles and tubs can all go in one bin. This makes it easier for people to recycle which leads to higher levels of recycling.

But it also means recyclables must be sorted, so all the paper can be sent to the paper mill, metal to the metal recycling facility, etc. Sorting is done here in Oregon, in big warehouses where both machines and people work to remove items that aren’t recyclable and sort out the rest by material type.

Recyclables being sorted by machine and by hand

Graphic provided by the Master Recycler program.

Where recyclables go after sorting

Some materials are turned into commodities used here in the Portland metro region. Other materials are sent out of state or overseas to be made into new products.

  • Your empty plastic bottles could become a park bench or filling for a winter coat.
  • Yesterday’s newspaper could become the cereal box you pull off the shelf next year.
  • An aluminum can recycled today can be back on the shelf as a new one in just 60 days!

Watch how materials are sorted and turned into new products in this 13-minute video.

Close the loop: Buy recycled!

Look for products that are made with recycled content. The higher level of recycled content, the better. "Post-consumer recycled-content" means the material has come from items recycled by consumers rather than from scrap materials from manufacturing.