There’s a significant new player in the area’s recycling network.
Emerald Systems LLC is a sustainability consulting and materials management company based in Tygh Valley, and the startup business has big plans.
“We will work with community organizations and businesses to help them reduce what goes into landfills by reducing, reusing and recycling – in that order,” said Julie Tucker, who co-owns Emerald Systems with her two sons, Isaiah Arnold and Irie Arnold. “Our goal is to reduce waste. The term ‘zero waste’ is a philosophy. Zero waste is considered 90 percent diversion from landfills. It’s more of a goal or an ideal rather than a hard target. We want to conserve and recover resources, not burn or bury them.”
Tucker said the company’s business model is partly based on charging a fee to pick up materials.
“We’re providing a service to companies to help them divert materials from the waste stream,” Tucker said. “We work with companies to get to zero waste.”
Emerald System’s current client base includes businesses such as wineries, manufacturing businesses, distributors, restaurants, packing houses, and resorts.
Tucker and her sons started the business in April, and one of the company’s key goals is to have recycling depots throughout the Gorge.
“Especially for rural communities like Klickitat, Moro or Grass Valley,” she said. “Our first goal is to open a drop-off spot in Tygh Valley. Once we get that set up, we’ll start reaching out to other communities.”
Emerald Systems plans to open a recycling depot in Tygh Valley at 57590 Yew Drive, which is the former site of Mel’s Sanitary Station.
“We are currently moving into the Tygh Valley warehouse, but won’t be open to the public until November,” Tucker said. “And we are working with the city of Dufur on reopening the Dufur recycling center, but no date has been set.”
Eventually, Emerald Systems intends to serve a five-county area that encompasses Wasco, Sherman, Hood River, Klickitat and Skamania counties, and its product mix will be extensive.
“We’ll take foam, plastic, glass – even plate glass -- and not hazardous waste, but universal wastes such as batteries and light bulbs,” she explained.
Tucker said she was getting the company up and running earlier this year when she heard that Paul Lepinski, owner of A&P Recycling in The Dalles, was retiring.
She praised his efforts in the recycling industry and explained that Emerald Systems hoped to reach out to Lepinski’s customers and continue his work.
“We want to continue the positive impact he’s had in The Dalles,” Tucker explained. “He’s a pioneer in recycling in the Gorge.”
Tucker pointed out that she has a lengthy background in the recycling industry.
“My first job in recycling was in 1987 in Portland,” she said. “Even as a child, I leaned toward conservation.”
Despite all the good intentions and plans, however, the company is facing an immediate hurdle. With the upcoming closure of A&P Recycling — which will cease operations Oct. 15 — Emerald Systems wants to continue to recycle the community’s cardboard. But to do so, it needs a location to place a cardboard baler.
“We will continue to do cardboard recycling, but we need a place for a baler in The Dalles. We’ve been looking for over six weeks,” Tucker said.
“If we can’t find a spot to put a baler, it’s too expensive to haul the material to Portland, so it’ll end up going to the landfill.”
Wasco County Commissioner Steve Kramer said with A&P closing its doors, he is hopeful a way can be found to take care of the cardboard.
“A&P has two more weeks of baling cardboard, then the gates will shut,” Kramer said. “None of us want to see recycling materials go to the landfill. It’s a major issue for us. This stuff is going to pile up.”
Tucker said her company needs a building with about 1,000 square feet for the baler, and ideally the building would have a tall ceiling and a rollup door to get the baler inside.
“We’ll process cardboard six hours a day, and then we’ll haul the cardboard bales to Tygh Valley,” she said.
“We’re all trying to find a solution.”