As recyclers scramble to find buyers to send their materials, Rogue Valley readers have lost one recycling option.
Glory Cooper, executive director of the Lions Sight and Hearing Center, confirmed that the organization has emptied its newspaper recycling boxes across Medford, Jacksonville and Talent for the last time and permanently removed them.
One that remains in Eagle Point will be removed, as well. It's the end of a longtime revenue source that recently flip-flopped to an expense for the nonprofit, hit by ripple effects from turmoil in the global recycling market.
"We're kind of in shock, and we've had a lot of calls already," Cooper said. "This morning I've had about 12."
The 25-foot-long, blue, metal containers have been fixtures since 1998, when they were first placed throughout the valley. The Sight and Hearing Center used them to raise money for its outreach efforts, which include providing eyeglasses and hearing aids to those without adequate insurance coverage.
That source of income became steadily threatened, however, as the price fetched by recycled paper plummeted amid a drop in demand. The Lions' partnership with Rogue Disposal and Recycling became a liability rather than an asset in achieving its service goals.
October was the first month that the center found itself paying out more than it was getting back to haul away the donated papers. The shortfall was about $83. In November, Cooper said, the expense jumped to $292.
"As a nonprofit, we’re not going to pay haul fees to provide that community service," Cooper said.
These are not the first newspaper drop-boxes to close. Boxes in Ashland were carted away in April 2016 for similar reasons.
The removal of the Lions' recycling containers is one of several local impacts from the global recycling crunch, driven in part by China's decision to stop accepting most recycled goods from the U.S. Ashland has approved adding a surcharge to its recycling fees and Talent is discussing implementing a similar charge. Bloomberg News reported that 800 tons of mixed paper have had to be landfilled in Southern Oregon since October.
Rogue Disposal doesn't expect to hurt much from the loss of hauling fees from the Lions program, manager Garry Penning said. The company hauled away the boxes and delivered their contents to processing plants in Portland, which will sell them to other buyers. A bottleneck effect is occurring, however, because the foreign markets are no longer viable.
"Once the price dropped below the cost to get it to the mill and process it, that’s when things started to go upside down," Penning said.
Newspaper readers will still have the option of disposing of newspapers in their red-lid bins provided by Rogue Disposal.
Cooper said the Lions Sight and Hearing Center is looking into other potential uses for the newspaper containers and other community service opportunities.
"We do appreciate the past support of all our regular newspaper donors," she said. "The motto of Lions is 'We Serve,' and we will continue to do so no matter what it takes."
— Reach Mail Tribune reporter Kaylee Tornay at 541-776-4497 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/ka_tornay.