Fined Again, Oregon’s Only Glass Recycler

Oregon’s largest glass container recycling plant, Owens-Brockway, was fined by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality over $1 million for breaking air pollution laws. 

According to the DEQ, Owens-Brockway has been spewing too much soot into the air after failing to install proper pollution control equipment. Unfortunately, this is not the first time this has happened to the company; Owens-Brockway has a history of air quality violations. Since 2004, this is the ninth time that Owens-Brockway has been fined for air pollution and the company has also been caught over 50 times for exceeding air opacity limits. 

Located in northeast Portland, Owens-Brockway has stirred some complaints from local environmental activist groups. Neighbors for Clean Air, a Portland-based organization that campaigns against threats to air quality, stated that Owens-Brockway’s continued pollution is a “clear issue of environmental racism, given the proximity of the plant to Cully, one of Oregon’s most diverse neighborhoods.”  

Although the state can outright revoke Owens-Brockway’s company permit for repeated air quality violations, Oregon heavily relies on the plant to recycle glass containers.  

Every day, Owens-Brockway recycles over 240,000 pounds of glass from all across the state, constituting over 100 million pounds of glass every year. Even more significantly, Owens- Brockway is the only recycling plant in Oregon that takes glass for recycling — every bottle that is recycled in the state goes through this facility. Without this plant, all the recycled bottles in Oregon would have to be shipped out of state on diesel trucks or be thrown into landfills.  

Owens-Brockway has 15 days to submit a plan to the DEQ to reduce emissions until it can install pollution control equipment. The state is also requiring the company to submit a work plan and risk assessment report by August 9 to comply with the Cleaner Air Oregon Program.  

A spokesperson for Owens-Illinois, the parent company of Owens-Brockway, was unavailable to comment on the fines and legal issues.   

By: Hannah Meiner