What Is Zero Waste McMinnville?

Our goal is to make McMinnville the first city in Oregon to divert 90% of our waste from the landfill by 2024.

Zero Waste is a philosophy that encourages  people to change their thinking about how resources are used and learn to stop sending everything as trash to the landfill or incinerator.  

Zero Waste is a goal that is ethical, economical, efficient and visionary. It guides people to modify their lifestyles and practices to emulate sustainable natural cycles, where all discarded materials are designed to become resources for others to use.

Zero Waste means encouraging the design and management of products and processes to systematically avoid and eliminate the volume and toxicity of waste and materials, conserve and recover all resources, and not burn or bury them.

Implementing Zero Waste will eliminate all discharges to land, water or air that are a threat to planetary, human, animal or plant health.

We provide educational and hands-on programs to organizations, schools, hospitals, event sponsors, and local government. We need the community to expand the Zero Waste message and programs.


Spreading the compost  gospel

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By Tom Henderson • Staff Writer • June 22, 2018 !

Gloria Lutz grew up on a farm, but she doesn’t remember people talking about composting all that much.  “In the old days, you didn’t compost,” she said. “There was nothing to compost. Everything went back into the garden. So I guess I did compost.”

Tawna Parker’s family didn’t practice composting when she was growing up, either, but for a completely different reason.  “It’s something I’ve picked up as I’ve gotten older,” Parker said. “When I was growing up, we just cleared out the fridge, pulled the trash can over and put it in.” Now both women not only practice composting themselves, they encourage others to do the same through Zero Waste McMinnville.

The local environmental group seeks to reduce (and possibly even eliminate) material that otherwise ends up in the landfill. Members of Zero Waste regularly stand guard at the McMinnville Farmers Market, local festivals and other public events, directing people on how to sort their trash. They were also the driving force behind the McMinnville City Council’s decision last year to ban nonreusable plastic bags at local retailers.

Lutz, Parker and other Zero Waste members shared their composting expertise June 16 at the annual Compostpalooza, held this year at the McMinnville Grange. “This is the third year we’ve done it,” said Steve Iverson of Zero Waste. “This is our ‘everything
compost’ event.”

At least 20 percent of the landfill is food waste that could have been composted, he said. Instead, it goes to the dump, where anaerobic bacteria decomposes organic waste to produce biogas, a toxic cocktail of methane and carbon dioxide with hints of other

Methane is an asphyxiant, which in high concentrations may displace oxygen. “Methane is a major polluter, and we want to keep methane producers out of the waste stream,” Iverson said. Properly composted material, on the other hand, is rich in nutrients. It can be used as a soil conditioner and fertilizer. It is also useful for erosion control, land
and stream reclamation, and wetland construction, he said.

However, as Parker told visitors to Compostpalooza, it needs to be done properly. There are forms of food debris that can be composted and others best left to the trash. It’s not a good idea, for example, to throw what’s left of the Thanksgiving turkey on the compost
pile, she said. “Meat and dairy are not the best for backyard compost,” said Parker, who runs Gratefull Gardens, a 10-acre organic farm near McMinnville. “You can definitely do it, but it’s harder to keep it safe.”

Parker and her partner have operated the farm for the last four years. They had never been to Oregon when they decided in 2012 to travel through the World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms program. The program connects those interested in learning organic methods with farmers throughout the world to promote cultural and educational experiences.

Parker and her partner settled in McMinnville and started Gratefull Gardens on land they lease from Jackie Dole. “We wanted to learn to grow our own food and be sustainable,” Parker said.

For Lutz, part of being sustainable includes teaching people how to make simple composting bins with the help of worm castings. “It’s really just worm poop,” she said.
Lutz said 10.6-gallon plastic bins can be purchased for a few dollars. They need to be filled with, among other things, shredded newspaper. She’s a big admirer of the press. “Newspapers do a wonderful job for composting,” she said. The bins also require dirt. Don’t settle for imitations, Lutz warned. “You want to use some real dirt because it has the microbes that make animals healthier.”

The worms will enjoy some coffee grounds, too.  “Coffee grounds are like candy for worms,” Lutz said. “They also appreciate sand or ground eggshells. Worms like grit.”

The bins need plenty of water. “Worms breathe through their skin so they need moisture,” Lutz said. Not any old worms will do. Lutz said people should use red wigglers. Nature practically designed them for composting. “They don’t survive in the ground,” she said. “They need stuff like this.” Wait a minute. They don’t survive in the ground? They’re worms. “You’re going to have to Google that,” said Lutz.

Google actually does have an answer to that question. Lutz is right. Red wigglers — or Eisenia fetida — are a species of earthworms that have adapted to decaying organic material. They thrive on rotting vegetation, compost and manure and are rarely found in soil.

Lutz knows exactly what they like. “I have a recipe here for worms,” she told a visitor. For more information on the specifics of composting, visit zerowastemcminnville.org/composting.

Rhonda Langley of McMinnville appreciated the information available at Compostpalooza. She and her husband have six children, ranging in age from 5 to
23. They regularly buy fresh fruits and vegetables at the Saturday Market at the grange.
“We do a lot of composting,” she said. “We have a black compost bin at home. With six kids, it piles up.”

There was more to Compostpalooza than composting.  In the basement of the grange, Zero Waste member Beth Rankin oversaw the event’s Second Life Flea
Market. Rankin said she hates to see anything cast aside and dumped. “Look at this dehumidifier,” she said. “It’s perfectly good, except that someone no longer wanted
it. And what if it did need a new plug or something? For a person who knows how to put on new plugs, it’s a snap.”

Business was somewhat slow, but Rankin wasn’t complaining. “Everyone will take home what they haven’t sold at the end of the day, but we’ve been selling a few things,” she said. “I’ve got some money in my pocket.”

The important thing is that nothing gets thrown away— whether it’s an apple core or an air mattress with a slow leak, she added. The apple core can be used for composting, and the air mattress can be repaired.“There is no such thing as ‘away,’” Rankin said.
“That’s what we try to teach people.”

Duniway Leadership Success!

Thanks to the 7th Grade Leadership students at Duniway Middle School a whole lot of people now know about the problems associated with plastic in our oceans. Five students, Opal Primozich, Uke Halloran-Steiner, Margaret Bowman, Caden Huber, and Kellen Reed showed the movie Plastic Ocean as a benefit for Zero Waste McMinnville at 3rd Street Pizza. The event sold out with families lining up on Third Street trying to get in to see the movie. It is a topic that people need to see… a harsh documentary depicting the destruction of our oceans with endless amounts of discarded plastic trash. Some people found it too sad and walked out… many viewers were moved to tears. The kids chose Zero Waste McMinnville and this movie to raise money and awareness because they know it is a poignant issue in today’s world. IMG_3119

These savvy ‘eco-tweens’ from David Holmes Leadership class at Duniway have raised over $1,000 bucks for Zero Waste McMinnville by working with Third Street Pizza to show the movie, collecting bottle and cans, selling plant starts at EARTH NIGHT, organizing donations from Four Elements Yoga classes, and orchestrating “Hat Day” where everyone could pay a dollar to wear an otherwise forbidden hat to school. So ingenious!

The movie that they chose to screen ended with a lot of things we as a society can do to stop the tide of plastic pollution circulating from sea to sea and these smart engaged kids are just the team we need to lead the way. Hardy congratulations, and warm thanks goes out from Zero Waste McMinnville to these smart, engaged students who are on their way to making our planet a better place to live.


Early on we realized that we needed to raise public awareness of our organization and our mission, and that a good way to do this was to become involved in local events. With this in mind, starting in Spring 2015 we have worked with the organizers of major city and private events to coordinate waste collection and separation into recyclables, compostables and true trash residual that goes to the landfill. Our goal is to achieve 90% diversion (recyclables + compostables) of the event waste stream, mirroring our overall organizational goal.

We have been supported in our efforts by a 2015 grant from the CAN’d Aid Foundation Crush It Crusade that we used to buy our first sets of equipment for local events, and by a follow-on 2017 CAN’d Aid grant that allowed us to upgrade our equipment to the ClearStream Recycling units that we’re now using.

Our events range from smaller, one-day festivals such as the Garden Faire or Sabor Latino, to large, multi-day events such as the UFO Festival, TurkeyRama or the International Pinot Noir Celebration. Whereas a small event might require only 3 or 4 volunteers, each working a typical 3-hour shift, the large events need 60 or more volunteers in a variety of roles – from standing by one of our recycling stations to help the public get their discards into the correct bin, to doing a final sort on the bags brought in from the bins to minimize contamination of the streams.

As our event experience grows, so does our diversion effectiveness. In the 2015 event season, we filled 225 volunteer shifts and logged 1000 volunteer hours, and achieved a diversion rate of 82%. By 2017, with several more events, we filled over 250 shifts and logged more than 1100 hours, and achieved a diversion rate of over 89%. This is truly a team effort!

Speaking Frankly

The Bag It Better campaign made good effort to get the word out to McMinnville residents about the program. Larger stores initiated the project September 1, 2017 and small stores will be involved starting March 1, 2018.


KYLC Town Hall

McMinnville’s local radio station (1260 on the AM dial) provides musical entertainment and information about local issues. January 10, 2018 several members of McMinnville Zero Waste were interviewed to explain more about the goals and programs. Celebrate Life Media