Newberg paper mill closure leaves few options for Metro's 127K tons of Portland scrap wood

Wednesday, Nov 04, 2015

Metro will need to find a new facility to process hundreds of thousands of tons of reclaimed wood each year.

The local governing body sends the bulk of greater Portland’s salvaged timber to a Newberg paper mill to burn as biomass. Now, with news of the facility’s pending closure, officials are scrambling to find alternatives.

Metro is working with DEQ and local facilities, as well as its own two solid waste transfer stations, to address the changes caused by the closure, slated for Nov. 15, which will also leave 171 workers jobless. That paper mill processed roughly 88 percent of the reclaimed wood from the greater Portland area, which it burned in its boilers to create steam and electricity and power the mill. Last year, it received about 127,000 tons of wood.

As it stands, there are no other facilities “readily available” to handle that much volume, wrote Ken Ray, Metro spokesperson, in an email. The regional body is working with DEQ to provide guidance to local material recovery facilities to delineate between wood that can be sent to a landfill and wood that needs to be recycled.

Those regulations could change. On Nov. 12, the Metro Council will consider temporarily suspending enforcement of Metro’s code provisions for wood waste recovery and recycling requirements. Metro generally prohibits landfill disposal for wood that can be reused.

For the last 10 years wood waste with any reuse value was sent to facilities like WestRock or elsewhere to turn into sawdust or some other useful material. Now, it looks like those disposal regs will need to be relaxed until new facilities are identified.

Starting this Sunday, Metro will charge full garbage rates, or $94.98 per ton, for loads with painted, treated or processed wood like plywood or particle board that must go to landfills. Only raw, untreated wood — mostly dimensional lumber — will be accepted at Metro’s discounted wood-only rate of $51.56 per ton.

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