Want to Talk about New Ideas?

You may not be on Facebook. You may have sworn that there is no way you are EVER going to waste your life looking at photos of kittens.  You may have heard that people have stopped talking to family members because of political arm wrestling.

All that can be true.

However, the very definite benefit to checking into Facebook at least once daily is that you can learn a lot about Zero Waste. Not only activities and events that the group is planning but things that are going on around the world!!! facebook ok

And then, the best part: discussion.  People who are interested in living a more sustainable lifestyle, or at least supporting efforts made by others, are adding their comments and their excitement.

What are people talking about?

Well, yesterday I posted (about the 4th time in 6 months actually) a story about grocery shopping without packaging.  Over 250 people read the post and almost 80 of them read the article. Best of all, several people responded with comments!

“A week or so ago I posted an article about package free shopping and there was a lot of interest here in McMinnville. Please respond this time telling how often you use the bulk bins. What appeals to you? And do you make a special trip to Winco, for example, to shop their extensive bulk bin selection?  https://www.specialtyfood.com/…/uk-supermarket-launches-pl…/

Comments showed how much people would like to be able to use their own jars and other packages for bulk purchasing. The solution to that lies with the store. All we consumers need to do is inform the store manager that we’d like a system to note the tare weight of our personal containers. It is feasible and with enough interest, it can be achieved!!!

Another topic that really jumped off the screen and became a real life endeavor was a post about an artisan fair where the art was actually made from items that were heading for the trash. Well,  after posting a follow-up to ask if there was interest here, I was bombarded by at least 30 people in the region who wanted to know when the fair was scheduled! First things first, a committee of six artisans have been working hard and yes, there will be the McMinnville Recycled Arts Festival this spring. Stay tuned for details. 

I posted about Oregon’s adoption of a plan to reduce food waste:  “In the last 2 years, Zero Waste McMinnville and a number of restaurants on 3rd Street participated in a study to measure the kinds of trash (recyclable or compostible or landfill) generated at the restaurants. Collecting compostible food waste is the logical next step from all large food waste producers (including the schools, the hospital and major employers as well as restaurants). And now, Metro Portland has passed an ordinance to have a similar plan in place. https://www.oregonmetro.gov/…/starting-2020-many-businesses… ” Over 280 people saw the article and three people shared it as well. 

We have discussions about

  • Starbuck’s decision to replace their plastic straws with paper straws….wrapped in plastic
  • News about how Recology and other waste haulers are storing our recycled trash while they search for new buyers.
  • Hints on how to reduce personal single-use plastic consumption.
  • And there has been high enthusiasm for our efforts to develop a way to collect Styrofoam and deliver it to Agilyz, a recycler located nearby in Tigard. 

 This blog, as all blogs that we write, will also be posted on our Facebook page. So now, come on, break out of your shell and go see what is happening on the page for logo

Go to https://www.facebook.com/zerowastemachttps://www.facebook.com/zerowastemac  and join the discussion!!  And post a photo of some sustainable activity YOU’ve done recently!!

What’s Happening?

There has been a bit of a lull with active Zero Waste McMinnville volunteers as the hectic events season ended with the last Downtown Farmers’ Market.  It gives us all a moment to catch our breaths and regroup. We don’t stop working towards our goal; in fact, the committee work gears up since each of us is not pulled in six different directions any given day.

So, part of what you are reading that that we are always working to get to that goal of 90% of trash diverted from the landfill by 2024.

But more importantly, part of what you are reading here is also a statement of fatigue: we are a small and mighty group but we really would be willing to have more of you join us in chasing the goal. That eases the tasks each one of us handles.

We’ve heard you: you appreciate what we’re doing even as some in town may not agree with all aspects of the decision making. Actually,  agree with us or disagree, the best way to get yourself heard better is to join us. The next meeting will be Monday, November 5th at 5:30 in the Carnegie Room at the Public Library.

Right now there are several committees in active planning.

  • Styrofoam collection: we know you want it. Styrofoam comes into our homes in several ways including the trays under the meat you purchase at the supermarket, many of the take-out containers used at restaurants, and of course, the packing materials in boxes that get mailed to you as well as appliances and furniture you purchase here in town.  While we all get some Styrofoam, we support Recology’s decision not to have a curb-side collection.  It costs them a lot to run pick-up service and in a situation like this, the household volume does not support that level of activity. We believe that establishing a collection area at the Depot would be a good solution. Similar to other items (like cardboard, textiles, books, glass, electronics and more), a collection container for Styrofoam will probably provide you an outlet without much bother. Unfortunately, Recology’s space is tight inside the Depot. For the Styrofoam to be viable to Agilyx (the company that can break it down into its components and then truly make it available for new/recycled Styrofoam to be manufactured), it needs to be protected from the weather. We are asking residents of McMinnville to sign a petition asking the City Council to add a stipulation to the contract with Recology to provide this service.   As a way to demonstrate to Recology that the public wants this service, we are trying to set up a collection day, probably in January  (after all those padded packages arrive as part of holiday shopping). Watch our website calendar as well as announcements on the Facebook page to participate.


  • Composting collection: Currently you can use your Yard Waste trash bin to include uncooked fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, and a few other raw produce leavings. Do not include egg shells, as they take a bit longer to break down into the good nutritional calcium element and remaining pieces of shell flecks in the compost produced by Greenlands has caused some dissatisfaction.  We encourage you to have a small compost pile in your own yard if you have space, as the nutrients that develop in the rich decayed material will feed your flower and food gardens. More items can be used in a home compost pile as seen in the photo.  Zero Waste has been working towards implementation of a commercial pick up from restaurants, schools, the hospital and nursing homes. Once we implement a pilot program we can work out issues that might hamper curbside collection citywide, so it’s important we work it slowly and carefully.  We could use some help on this committee, with tasks that would include or not include physical effort.


  • By both volume (space used) and weight, debris from demolition and construction is the single largest category of trash going to the landfill. It is in the financial interest of anyone paying for trash pickup in McMinnville that we solve this problem!  We appreciate Cellar Ridge Construction  offering to help us explore our options here. This is a perfect example of a type of special expertise that is needed for this task. People with large scale experience knows not only the issues they themselves deal with, the solutions they have developed that may be viable on a larger scale, and the ability to know what the construction industry overall in areas interested in zero waste are doing to address this problem. We need not reinvent the wheel, so to speak, if another location already has developed a solution.  If you have the time and knowledge to lend a hand with this problem, please let us know.  When we have larger committees, each person’s time involvement lessens.  We love our volunteers and do not want them to fatigue out of chasing the mission


  • We are planning an Earth Day event that we have great hopes will excite you! We’ve posted  in this blog as well as on Facebook numerous stories about places around the world where amazing useful items and artistic decor are made using items that would otherwise end up in the trash. We hope you will be excited to explore The McMinnville Recycled Arts Festival!!  The committee has been working hard the last few weeks and we will be announcing the when/where/why/who/how information asap!  This will be a juried event which means the artisans who will be participating will have to submit extensive information about their products for us to determine they meet our quality standards. All prices will be offered. This will not be an exclusive event but one where everyone living in the area will enjoy not only the creativity of the artists, but how the usefulness of many of the handcrafted items would fit your own needs.


  • Another committee that is approaching the culmination of planning is the Merchant Awards group. We recognize that each of us probably needs to be more mindful of the materials in items we purchase and how we can best use them when we no longer need it. It’s easy for people to be reluctant about the changes they can make and Zero Waste McMinnville wants to recognize the amazing steps some people are taking to minimize their contribution to the landfill. Our first phase of this involves award to shopkeepers, restaurants, and other similar businesses who have met standards we have suggested for best practices.


  • There are several more committees and working groups that help Zero Waste McMinnville develop an action plan for reaching the mission. One aspect is working with the youth in town. An active committee is introducing the Green Schools program in city schools. Last year Patton Middle School participated and were amazing creative and excited participants.  Because of the help we provide at area events, we see that overall, the children of this city already are aware that they have a role in helping our environment be healthy.  Kids often show their parents how to sort their trash, for example!  Our intern Maddie is developing ideas of other ways to reach out to the school-age population here.


We are not a large group, but we are attracting more people to this way of thinking and many more are volunteering their energy, as they can. We do not abuse our volunteers. We encourage you to find the best fit…there are so many ways…..but not to overdo.  Another way you can join our group is to consider a financial contribution. Our annual Sustaining Circle dinner is scheduled for Friday, November 16th  and we would love for you to be there. This year we are excited to host the event at Youngberg Hill Winery 

Do You Vote in Local Elections?

Monday, October 1st, instead of a regular meeting, Zero Waste McMinnville is sponsoring a McMinnville City Council candidate forum open to the public. It will run from 5:30-7pm in the Carnegie Room at the McMinnville Public Library.  Plenty of parking.

We have invited all the candidates. As you know, the town is divided up, so you may have only 1 (a few positions are unopposed) or 2 candidates running for a position for your section of town.

We at Zero Waste McMinnville need a good working relationship with City Council so are interested in hearing their views on the zero waste mission as well as many other issues important to people living in McMinnville.

All people entering will have the opportunity to submit a question that will go into the program to pose to the candidates, as much as time permits. When you enter you will be handed an index card and a pencil for that purpose. The questions will be scanned to eliminate duplicates and to defuse any strong language that may be written.

This is an information session. We hope you will attend in order to become a more informed voter. Please copy and share this meeting notice with everyone you know who lives in Mac.



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.

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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.