What’s Next?

With the Styrofoam issue being addressed and the solution coming together, we know we need to next address one of the biggest issues in waste disposal in McMinnville.

The largest single type of trash that ends up in the landfill, the stuff that not only takes up lots of space but weighs a lot, is construction and demolition debris. We need help to figure out how to change that.

Image result for construction debris
source: JDog Junk Removal

I enjoy watching shows on HGTV that show how people fix up a house, either for themselves or for resale. It seems that everyone enjoys the demolition phase…where they get to take sledgehammers to walls that will come down, or pry bars to kitchen cabinets. Porcelain tubs and toilets are removed. What seems to be happening is a lot of broken pieces, even when care is taken.

Image result for plumbing fixtures removed in demolition

We know some people are more careful with demolition and that’s how places like the ReStore end up with plumbing fixtures, cabinets, doors and other items that were removed to make room for updated more efficient and modern features. We also know that careful removal of those fixtures takes more time than simply ripping them away and smashing them.

Image result for restore store toilets
Source: Habitat ReStore Lansing, Michigan

In order to reach the goal of diverting 90% of all trash from the landfill, this HAS to be addressed.  Someone with construction experience knows the kinds of materials involved. S/he knows the work involved to remove objects during demotion in ways that won’t destroy them. The rest of us don’t even know what we don’t know.

Most of the people reading this may think that there is nothing they can do to help because they are not a contractor nor have they ever demolished a kitchen before. Perhaps, however, you know someone who might be retired or have a few hours a week to help and has the knowledge base to help McMinnville solve this problem. Please share this issue and have them contact us!



Wow! A New Look at “Styrofoam”!!!

Get ready to hold on to your hats!! This may flip everything you ever thought about recycling!

Back in February we shared with you about Agilyx, a company located just up the road in Tigard that has been getting a LOT of national attention. In the blog,  First Choice: Stop Using! Second Choice: Recycling ComingI wrote that you should stop using polystyrene products (like Styrofoam coffee cups) but to keep your ears open, since the Styrofoam Committee was working hard for McMinnville.  We’re getting oh so close, now and it is time to give you an update!

First, let’s get this out of the way. Most of us call it Styrofoam, but it is important to state that that is a trademarked name, just like Xerox and Kleenex.  And just like Xerox and Kleenex, the term Styrofoam is used by most people for ALL similar products, no matter the manufacturer.

We’re talking about a kind of plastic that up to now has not typically been part of the recycle stream and took up a LOT of space in landfills.  So of course Zero Waste McMinnville has been seeking a solution as part of our goal to reduce the amount of trash heading to the landfill.

The Styrofoam Committee identified that the city of Tillamook had received a grant to purchase a densifier, a machine that would smash certain kinds of Styrofoam into denser smaller pieces. An arrangement is being made to periodically use this densifier, located on a trailer for easy transport, in McMinnville. Some of the waste will then be carried back to Tillamook for them to use and the rest will go to Agilyz.styrofoam 3

The magic that Agiliyz’s proprietary process uses breaks down the plastic, the polystyrene, into its styrene oil origins with little waste.  This oil, then, can be reused to make more polystyrene. And again and again, unlike other plastics which can be recycled only once before they can not perform well any longer.  agilyx banner

The next piece of the puzzle is how to collect it. While Recology’s curbside pick-up has expanded beyond landfill trash to mixed recycling, glass, and yard waste, they can’t pick up EVERYTHING we want to get rid of. People who are excited about other kinds of recycling already understand how to bring other items to the Depot. Check out the blog, Move over Wineries! There’s a New Tourist Destination in Town!  that explained how so many items are collected there!   Recology is looking for space for a Styrofoam collection point that will keep the disposed items dry. DSC_0091

What does this mean to us living in McMinnville?  Well, pretty soon we will let you know where to bring your Styrofoam!  That means those slabs of foam inside the box that packaged your newest television or computer or other precious item will be able to go into the recycling stream!!!

And while we want all vendors at Zero Waste events to stick with compostible food service items at this time, it will probably make them thrilled to know next year we should be able to happily accept polystyrene items.  These tend to be less expensive,  which businesses with slim profit margins appreciate.

When the time comes we will provide clear information on how to identify those plastics that fit the Agilyx requirements. Meanwhile, please understand that this is Zero Waste McMinnville at work: a small group of impassioned volunteers who recognize that our city CAN be cleaner and have a smaller environmental footprint.logo

Please join us. We have more projects that need attention, including one where no current volunteer has any expertise: construction and demolition waste. This is the largest and heaviest segment of trash that goes to the landfill and if we can divert that, we will be well on our way to making McMinnville the first city in Oregon to be a Zero Waste city!


The Magic of Reuse

One of the easiest ways to be environmentally conservative is to use and reuse items you have until they actually no longer provide the function needed.  Basically, someone who is environmentally aware does NOT replace their cell phone or car or other things every year or two without knowing how to repurpose the item.

Almost all of us now have mobile phones that fit in our pockets and connect us to the world easily. Perhaps you have a love-hate relationship with the device; maybe you just love all  that it does: reach your mom and assure her that yes, you still are alive; connect you to your BFF to make plans for the evening; use the map ap to find that new restaurant everyone is talking about; add items to your shopping list and not forget it at home on the table when you go to the store; verify the latest crazy post on Facebook before you jump on the bandwagon and it turns out to be full of baloney.

That small piece of electronic hardware and software is not without environmental costs, however. On top of the energy and cost associated with extracting the materials that go into a cellphone, the disposal of cellphones often leaves a toxic imprint on the environment. That’s because:

• Printed circuit boards contain toxic metals including lead, nickel, and beryllium.
• Liquid crystal displays contain mercury.
• Batteries may contain nickel and cadmium, particularly older ones.
• Plastics may contain brominated flame retardants, that are toxic and persist in the environment. Studies suggest they accumulate in household dust and in the food chain, and they have been detected in some fish.

While it is very fashionable to replace your cell phone every 18 months or two years, the equipment should last at least double that time as long as updates still work. Getting a new phone just to get a new phone is a type of consumerism that needs reconsideration.  If your phone is not longer holding its charge, that makes sense. If you just want something new, you must have a lot of extra money…may we suggest donating to an organization that does good work (hint: Zero Waste McMinnville is a 501(c)3 organization).

Many cell phone owners have several old phones no longer in use and thrown into some drawer. There is a better place for it.

There are many organizations which accept them. Some are overseas and help provide connection to the world for people living in rural areas. Others are nearby. For example, Henderson House in McMinnville accepts old cell phones for their clients, people who have escaped situations where domestic abuse made them concerned for their safety.

The How Stuff Works website suggests an old phone can become a permanent GPS in your car. By hooking it up and leaving it in the car (out of sight) you no longer have to mess around hooking up your current mobile, connecting it to Bluetooth and the charger cable.

Image result for cell phone gps
Use a dash or air vent mount

An old cell phone also can be the music device of choice for your walks, camping trips, or time on the beach. Even if it is not connected to your phone plan, it can be used to dial 911 in an emergency.  You need not worry about damage (sand, water, etc).   beach phone

Plugged into a power outlet, an old cell phone can also serve as a baby monitor with an app that will keep it and you alert..

Image result for cell phone as baby monitor

An old phone also can serve as a low cost Go-Pro with a universal headmount or way to attach it to your bicycle.  Speaking of photos, many of us have an incredible photo collection on our mobile phones and are concerned about losing them if the phone is stolen. How about downloading them to an old phone!

These are examples of how a piece of equipment, important to your life, can be used in many ways after its useful life in its primary role is over. Reuse is better than the landfill!!!




Plastic Has Its Place

Before we had plastic products we had nothing. We lived in caves with no clothes and no furniture and our food was…well, we had better eat it all because there was just no way to save it.  Our cell phones were made with rocks and real difficult to carry, especially without pockets.

Okay, you know I’m kidding. But the point is, we did manage before plastic became so much a part of our lives. Now, for anyone younger than 40, this has been ALL your life, but for us gray hairs, we remember when our sandwiches were wrapped with waxed paper and yes, we carried regular plates, silverware and glasses to a picnic.  Life was okay. Maybe some broken earthenware, but hey! There are paper plates now so go use those and start getting used to ….throwing your money away. Because that’s what single use disposable products require. You can spend money….throw what you purchased in the trash, and spend more money again to do it another time.

Image result for melamine platesSometime in the late 50s, early 60s there was a new plastic product called melamine. I think I have some plates….because essentially they are indestructible. And those plates can be carried to a picnic and come home without any concern for breakage.

When we get really thinking about zero waste it is very easy to jump on the bandwagon that every plastic product is bad.  But that is not the case and that is not the point.  Yes, there is toxicity all throughout the mining and refinery stages. There are transportation costs as well, but consider those pretty even when comparing many products unless you live near a green producer who has a bricks and mortar outlet.

Not all plastics should be shunned. For example, kayaks made from plastic last a lonnnnnnnng time. Why not purchase a used plastic kayak if you want?  This does not require any new plastic object to be manufactured and keeps the older one out of the landfill.

Image result for vintage sippy cupsHow about those sippy cups used by millions of American toddlers?  You can buy some at a fraction of the cost of new at yard sales or on a resale website. Yes, sterilize it…..you should anyway if you bought something new from the store for your baby to use.  Within 3 or 4 days of use a new cup looks well loved.  So, considering the lifespan of a sippy cup, switch your buying to used and relax.

Now, how about plastic straws?  We’re now talking about an item which has for most people a single use. You buy a soda when ordering fast food and there it is. And afterwards, you throw it in the trash because you already know they can not be recycled.

There’s a big push throughout the media for people to stop using plastic straws and this is smart. There are metal straws and also glass straws (made  with tempered glass so they are not easily breakable) that offer straight and bent versions as well as tiny brushes to clean the inside.  These straws easily can be used at home or on the go (refuse that straw at the fast food!!), washed and used again and again.

Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, people sitting
The Short Straw, McMinnville Thursday Farmers’ Market

But there are people who need the bending capability of the plastic straws. I know two adults who have different health conditions that require the use of a straw to drink and because of their posture issues, the bendy part of the plastic straw is priceless to get the drink to them cleanly.  Those people should be able to continue to obtain plastic straws for their use until they can also obtain some that are becoming more readily available that avoid single use plastic also. I would suggest that current plastic straws could be washed to be reused, especially in a home environment.  Image result for handicapped need for bendy plastic straws

For the rest of us, from age one to 91, please use paper or the glass or stainless straws.  But allow those who are not as able to still have their cup and drink it too.

We have to keep an eye on our consumption of single-use plastics. We have to greatly reduce if not completely eliminate them from our lives in order to help manufacturers find new sustainable packaging and objects.  When we make our choices, people WILL start new businesses to meet a new trend.

Perhaps some of you may not know that I am a commercial food processor. I can foods and they go into glass jars. Lids have to be new for a good seal, but the jars themselves can be sanitized and reused as long as the sealing surface is intact without any chips.  My dehydrated products, however, are packaged into plastic zip-locked bags that are rated for 5 years of safe storage. Right now I have not found anything available on the market at any price. If anyone has any ideas, please let me know. I will be searching and when I find a substitute that provides safe food storage, I will make the switch.IMG_1464

Each of us needs to think of our own use and find better substitutes to help better steward our planet.



Reduce. Most of us may first think of weight loss when you hear that word, but in the world of Zero Waste it means something much easier to achieve, at least for me. To reduce means to lessen the amount of items you use that end up needing to be sent to the landfill or incinerator.

The first step in reducing trash headed for the landfill is to actually stop acquiring things that need to be thrown away. A lot of people are proud of their recycling habit, but believe it or not, recycling is always a third or fourth choice.

If we STOP using plastic items that are not recyclable, there will be less going to the landfill. Since people are waking up to these concerns all over the world, there are lots of ideas that have been developed.

Image result for stop using plastic

For example, lots of news about plastic straws now and how some cities and even countries are making their use prohibited. While some people may not understand how their one straw from a fast food soft drink can affect sea life, they are simply not considering that it is not just them…..we have millions of people here in the United States using…and discarding…straws every day. Consider that people around the world, many with less sophisticated garage collection than we have, also use single use straws and you begin to understand that we have a mountain of straws discarded.

When I was young we used paper straws and they work pretty well. But there is a tendency for them to get “waterlogged” and then tear easily. When plastic straws became available they became a clear winner in comparison. The ones that are bendable make it easy for people who can’t sit up to be able to drink without spilling.

So, we and others are encouraging you to stop using plastic straws, what can you do?

Image result for iced teaFirst of all, I know I do not need a straw every time I am offered one. At a restaurant where the beverage is served in a glass and not a cup with a plastic lid, I certainly can (and I bet you can too) drink directly from the glass.  So, I have begun to say “I don’t need a straw: when I order my beverage.

Next, I have saved sme plastic straws from fast food places where we carried out our drink. I wash them and reuse them. There is no reason to garbage them until they break.

There are so many paper straws now with decorative designs that would be fun for a party or at home use.  Many of these straws are compostible.

Image result for paper straws
source: Sweets and Treats
Stainless Steel Drinking Straws - Fits Ozark Trail, Yeti and RTIC 30 oz. Tumbler - Strong Reusable Eco Friendly, Set of 6 with 2 Cleaning Brushes by Decodyne (10")
source: WalMart $7.95

And finally, there are stainless steel straws, both straight and bent. Little brushes can clean the inside so for those of you who drink smoothies that stick to the inside, there is a way to make sure they are clean.

Using any of these instead of continuing the single use plastic straws is a way to REDUCE your impact on trash.  And while you are one person, think about how many plastic straws you have used in the last week/month/year and you begin to see the significance of  what a small change can mean to the environment if only everyone understands and makes the switch.


Other changes related to food includes how we wrap up items that get put into the refrigerator for storage. If I use half an onion while fixing dinner, my old method was to stick the other half into a sandwich baggie. Of course, the baggie went into the trash when I used the rest of the onion. Now we either use one of our food storage containers or a new product that addresses this issue. There are a number of new products that can cover food and keep it fresh.

Image result for sustainable food wrap container
Source: Etsy-LoveYourPlanetCA
Image result for sustainable food wrap container
source: Bee’s Wrap
Image result for sustainable food wrap container
source: https://www.amazon.com/Organic-Reusable-Wraps-Packs-Total/dp/B0785SJS6D

This cover and the Bee’s Wrap are cotton infused with beeswax. The heat from your hand is enough to get the wrap to stick tightly.


More items!

mesh bags for produce


There are mesh bags that can be used in the supermarket to collect items like produce or dry bulk bin items and avoid using plastic bags.  They are washable when they get dirty and are so lightweight they would have a negligible effect on pricing.




Image result for disposable razorsImage result for safety razorsRemember the excitement of getting your first razor?  Over the years you have used a lot of these. It’s time to transition to one similar to what your dad or grandfather used. Called a safety razor, they were an improvement over the straight razors used for years?decades?centuries? before them. They have a handle that is not replaced and the blades are removable and they can be replaced. Since they are metal (stainless steel usually), they are also potentially recyclable.

Send us photos of what you are doing to reduce your use of plastics.




Kick It OUT of Your Life!!!

Plastic…….that word has become a challenge. Anyone older than 50 can remember things that are commonly plastic now were made from something else when we were young. Paper straws for drinking. Metal lunch boxes. Metal cups for nonbreakable travel. Waxed paper for wrapping a sandwich.  Paper grocery bags used for school book covers. Image result for vintage metal lunch boxes

Then, we felt the joy of how plastic lasted longer and that fascination started taking over. Plastic straws don’t tear. Plastic lunch boxes come in all shapes. Plastic coated paper cups from the coffee kiosk. Plastic wrap keeps a tighter seal. The plastic coated book covers resist spills.

Image result for 1960s plastic lunch box  Image result for plastic lunch boxes vintage





And now, after years of comfortable use, we understand that plastics have a pretty large environmental footprint with its petroleum component. We are disappointed that plastic lined paper coffee cups can not be recycled and don’t break down for composting. We understand better that it never decomposes, so when it gets thrown “away”, it lands in the local landfill, with all its attendant environmental issues.  We recognize that paying money to use something only once has a recurring effect on your shopping budget.

And we’ve become wiser. We’ve chosen stainless steel straws that can be cleaned and reused forever or until we misplace them when we move.  That cloth bags come in various shapes and sizes and can carry our food for lunch easily. That beeswax infused food wrappers can keep our sandwich fresh. That there are easy to carry hot beverage containers that can be filled at the coffee shop. That paper grocery bags or newspaper work just fine as school book covers. Image result for eco lunch box

And we’re helping others learn by developing a “Zero Waste carry bag” on the go so we can tell them to “hold the straw” when you get a cold drink, or “fill my cup” when you order a coffee. We have a real squishable shopping bags in a pocket, so I’m not caught without a reusuable bagif I stop at a store.Eco-Cycle logo

eco cycle in Boulder, Colorado has suggests a series of challenges you can do to reduce the amount of plastic that you use. 

Start building (and using!) your own Zero Waste on-the-go kit . Many wasteful plastic items come into our lives when we are on-the-go and it’s hard to avoid them if we’re not prepared with reusable alternatives. Make a kit stocked with reusable options and show disposables who’s boss!
We recommend including the items below in your Zero Waste on-the-go kit, but feel free to pick and choose:
  • Reusable, non-plastic beverage containers—stainless steel coffee mugs, glass or stainless steel water bottles. Mason jars are affordable and work, too!
  • Reusable totes—Keep one in your purse, backpack, car or bike so you always have one on hand.
  • Cotton produce bags—Make your own using old pillow cases, clothes, or scrap fabric. Can’t sew? Eco-Bags and Etsy are great sources for cloth produce bags (we especially like this set with the tare weight marked).
  • Stainless steel food containers for take-out or leftovers.
  • Reusable straws—e.g., Bamboo, steel, or glass (and a straw cleaning brush!)
  • Utensil sets- there are many non-plastic travel utensil sets available, or you can make your own with metal silverware wrapped in cloth napkins. Keep a few in your kit to share!
*Thrift shops are a great place to pick up silverware, cloth napkins, reusable water bottles, and travel coffee mugs for your to-go kit!

We CAN do this!!!  We can reduce our plastic use!!!

Replacing Plastic Challenge

by Beth Rankin

Some of you may know I have a small commercial food processing business, Can-Do Real Food. Working with small farms in and near McMinnville, I capture their surplus produce. These are fruits and vegetables that are first quality but the farmer was unable to sell to her own customers, or second quality “funny” shaped items that have the same nutritional quality but are not desirable to most consumers. Instead of feeding these things to farm animals or throwing them on a compost pile, working with me permits the farmer to receive some financial value for that previously unsold food.  My business is to turn this produce into tasty preserved foods either by canning or dehydrating. This reduces food waste (and now you can see why getting involved with Zero Waste McMinnville was a natural step for my community involvement.)  These preserved offerings also help consumers eat food raised right here, full of flavor because it was harvested when ripe and processed soon after picking.

I use glass, of course, when I can. I often reuse the same jar with a new lid for optimal sealing. Many consumers  have returned jars to me at the farmers’ market, but other people use the jars to hold other items, another kind of reuse.  Glass is a sustainable material because it permits multiple uses.

My dehydrated food, however,  is packaged in plastic that is rated to preserve its dryness for at least five years. I purposely purchased bags with a zip attachment so the bags could be reused, but I suspect most people throw them away when empty. Image may contain: food

And now, aware of how devastating plastics are to our environment, I am searching for alternative packaging materials.  The “Make it, Take it” campaign urges manufacturers to take the responsibility for the end stage of the product packaging. For example, in some nations that have not outright banned styrofoam, the manufacturer has to provide a way for the consumer to return the packaging material back to the factory.  Then the manufacturer is responsible for the way the product is handled after its use.

The concept behind this level of responsibility is that manufacturers will stop using materials which are not easy or inexpensive to enter the waste stream.

circular economy linear take make dispose remanufacture reuse reduce recycle
Source: Returnable Packaging Services

So, I am contacting “green” packaging manufacturers and awaiting information, but the websites I have checked are not yet geared for my market niche.

This is an example of how each of us, aware of our plastic habit, needs to take responsibility to find alternatives.  It is also an example how we should hold manufacturers of all consumer items to be responsible for their packaging choices.

It is easy for some supermarket items. The bulk bins in many of our local grocery stores help us to purchase the amount of the items we need without any commercial packaging.   When I go shopping for food I not only carry my bags for packing the food home, but I also have about 8 mesh bags for produce and bulk food items. I carry the plastic container I used the first time I bought the peanut butter that comes out of the grinder, cleaned of course after all has been eaten.

But still we rely on plastic for liquids and most meats and fish are also wrapped in plastic.  Plastic is popular because it can seal out air, preserving freshness and it also seals in liquid, avoiding wetness and contamination of other items stored nearby.

Green packaging is coming along and can provide similar protections for meat. Be Green Packaging produces trays  for meats and fish molded from plant fiber instead of the typical polystyrene.  They are compostible in 90 days, making it a product that can be handled by industrial composting facilities.

Source: Be Green Packaging containers are designed to compost in 30 to 90 days.

Items like this give me hope that in another few years a product will become available to replace my plastic packaging

Meanwhile, do what you can to avoid using plastics, particularly those that are only good for a single use.   Easy to implement:

  • Use metal or paper straws instead of plastic. When you carry straws with you, refusing plastic straws will become easy.
  • Purchase reusable beeswax infused cotton to wrap sandwiches and partially used vegetables to store in the refrigerator instead of plastic wrap.
  • Carry mesh bags to the supermarket for loose items like bulk bin goods or vegetables instead of using the available one-use plastic bags.
  • Offer your own portable hot cup with lid instead of accepting the plastic lined paper cup from your favorite coffee kiosk.

Finally, if you have a favorite product that is still using packaging that is wasteful, write them to suggest they go green.