Blue Heron Closes, But Paper Recycling Will Stay Local

In April 2011, we received work from Janet Malloch (our longtime Blue Heron tour guide) that the Blue Heron Paper Recycling Mill was officially closing. Since then, emails from Master Recyclers poured in sharing solidarity with Blue Heron workers. These sentiments have been passed on to Janet.

Many Master Recyclers asked about the future of paper recycling markets in the region. Most of you remember that the vast majority of office paper, newsprint, phone books and similar high-end paper recycling are sold by local Material Recovery Facilities (MRF’s) to area paper recycling mills rather then overseas. This will continue to be true despite the closure of Blue Heron.

SP Recycling in Newberg and Norpac in Longview will seek the supply of recovered paper from Portland area MRF’s that were delivered to Blue Heron. In order to meet demand for recycled paper, our local mills depend on paper from a much broader reach then just the Portland metro area. All of these mills receive paper from throughout the west coast. Other western big cities like Seattle and San Francisco have major ports. These ports make selling paper overseas extremely accessible. The foreign markets regularly outbid the Portland area paper mills for paper set out for recycling. It is paper from these markets that Blue Heron is referring to when they say that overseas market prices drove them out of business.

Our region does not have a major port, so our remaining domestic mills have a better chance to buy our scrap paper. Also, one business model that may help keep Newberg’s SP Recycling supplied with recycled paper is they also operate their own MRF in Clackamas.

What can we do to generate more material for our local paper mills?

  • We can inspire our co-workers, families and friends to recycle the 20 tons of paper that gets tossed every 30 minutes in our region.
  • We can buy recycled content paper and encourage others to do so as well.
  • We can ensure that people sort recycling properly so that MRF’s can get the cleanest load of scrap paper to the mills.
Janet takes Class 48 on Tour of Blue Heron Paper mill   

Janet takes Class 48 on Tour of Blue Heron Paper mill


“Thank you a million times for what you and the hundreds of people that have toured the mill on their own time have done to promote recycling. [Recycling] extended our life here by about 30 years because it costs less energy to produce and it saves our forests. It has been an enjoyable relationship.” – Janet Malloch