In December 2016, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) published a Strategic Plan for Reuse, Repair and Extending the Lifespan of Products in Oregon. This report marked the culmination of a ~15-month planning and stakeholder engagement effort to define the most appropriate roles for the state to reduce environmental impacts by extending the lifespan of products. The planning effort included the development of a very significant background paper that includes more than 100 options for potential state action. Following completion of the Strategic Plan, DEQ has been implementing and supporting a number of projects. The agency’s initial focus is on building materials and the built environment although it is also doing some early work on packaging.
Major projects include:
- A workforce development initiative to support the reuse/repair industries with a high-priority need: training new staff for these skilled trades. DEQ provided both directed and competitive grants that support job training and associated equipment needs;
- Funding a variety of reuse/repair projects (not limited to workforce development) through our larger materials management grants program;
- A pilot project in two school districts to test the efficacy of adding water bottle fillers vs. education alone in reducing the use/sale of single-use bottled water;
- A life cycle assessment in partnership with an Oregon brewer to evaluate reusable vs. single-use kegs; and
- technical support for an Oregon Health Authority-led effort to define a menu of “best practices” that local governments can draw from if they wish to regulate and control dust from mechanical demolition of buildings (with a focus on reducing lead dispersion and hazards).
How was the Project Started?
Oregon’s 2050 Vision for Materials Management identified reuse/repair/product lifespan extension as a priority area, and reuse sits near the top of Oregon’s statutory hierarchy of policy preferences for managing solid waste. A small team of staff spent approximately 12 months in 2015 and 2016 studying the issues involved, identifying options, and consulting with stakeholders. Several meetings were held to obtain stakeholder feedback before the final plan was published in December 2016. We were eventually able to hire a half-time reuse/repair specialist to lead implementation projects.
When was the Project Started?
When was the Project Completed, or is it Ongoing?
Plan was completed December 2016 and is intended to cover a 5-year period. Work is very much ongoing. Some projects haven’t started yet.
What are the Results to Date?
DEQ awarded 7 grants specifically aimed at supporting workforce development needs in a very diverse set of organizations. One supported a 12-day workshop that graduated 14 people into Portland’s growing deconstruction industry (growth in that industry needed in response to a new city ban on mechanical demolition of older homes). Other grants are in process and address clothing, shoes, computers, mobile electronic devices, and lumber, and a community tool lending library. A parallel grant program has supported several other projects, including a pilot of reusable dishware at Portland International Airport, several community-based used building material centers, etc. The school water bottle pilot project demonstrated that while educational interventions had limited effect, simply installing more water bottle filling stations reduced bottled water use/sales, to the point that vending machines in several schools are being removed. DEQ is now consider options to leverage these results statewide. The Life Cycle Assessments of keg systems is in process; preliminary (“phase 1”) results have been shared and we are looking to refine and formalize results. The Oregon Health Authority published its list (supported by DEQ) of practices for reducing (lead) dust dispersion from mechanical demolition, and the City of Portland has already used this list to adopt a new ordinance adding local controls to reduce local health risks.
What are the Resources Needed, including Time, Cost, Etc.?
DEQ employed about 1.1 full-time employees (FTE) for 12 months to develop the strategic plan (a portion of these included donated staff from an area regional government). Current staffing is approximately 0.6 FTE, not including the LCA study of kegs (staffed separately and a one-time project) or the school drinking water project in which the agency utilized a temporary worker that was lightly supervised by DEQ staff. The 7 workforce-development projects cost approximately $95,000 in total. The drinking water pilot cost approximately $25,000 (for purchase and installation of fillers).
- David Allaway
- Oregon Dept. of Environmental Quality
- Sr. Policy and Program Analyst