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!

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.

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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.

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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.

 

 

Corena Can and So Can YOU!

By Corena Killian

I am one of those people who, with good intentions and research, will embark on a project only to have it turn out crappy. I am not artsy. I am not creative. I have a hard time keeping green things alive (case in point, my aloe vera plant – one of the easiest house plants to grow and maintain – is dying). So you could have knocked me over with a feather when we went out and dug through our compost pile and found that we had managed to produce, with very little effort or attention at all, a substantial amount of beautiful, glorious, micro-nutrient rich, free-to-us, actual, honest-to-goodness, 100% household-generated compost!!! It may well be the most satisfying personal project I have ever accomplished!Image may contain: plant, outdoor and nature

Satisfying because we used our own food scraps, lawn clippings, fallen leaves, unused cardboard boxes, and kitty litter (we use all-natural pine pellets which break down to sawdust rather than clay; and we scoop and flush the 💩, because that’s not compostable). We supplemented it with llama 💩and straw from a friend. And that is basically it. At times, we had a heaping pile of plant material. But through the fall and winter, that all broke down as we continued to add our veggie and fruit scraps, stale bread, egg shells, spent bones and veggies from multiple batches of chicken stock (great for adding calcium minerals to compost), etc.Image may contain: plant and outdoor

Satisfying because we diverted almost all of our household food waste away from the landfill. Did you know that nearly 25% of landfill material is food waste?!? And that food waste in landfills generates methane – a greenhouse gas 23x more potent than carbon dioxide? And that landfills account for 34% of all methane emissions is the US? This is why I’m doing everything I can to keep my food waste in my own back yard where I can use it to make the planet healthier, not to mention that it will hopefully serve to make our family healthier too with all of the amazing veggies we hope to grow with it!

We’ve already gotten “volunteers“ growing in the compost. Potatoes for sure. But other things too! Garlic, and something from the pumpkin/squash and/or cucumber family – it’s a little too soon to tell, so we’re guessing based on the appearance of the sprouts and the seed shells they sprouted from.

I surprised myself with my absolute giddyness over the phenomenal number of worms thriving in our compost. That is a sure sign that it is healthy and full of micronutrients.

This compost project has left me feeling very empowered! I hope to be sharing with you in a few months how successful our garden is as a result of this effort. Fingers crossed! 🤞

Part of the Community

A small city, like McMinnville, offers its residents a chance to get lost, as it is large enough. It also offers a chance to be part of something, as there are multiple events and activities.

I urge you to join, to be a part of this community. It is a tremendous feeling to be part of an activity from the “inside” or “backstage” crew.

For example, in only a few weeks McMinnville will be rolicking with its annual UFO Festival. As much as I generally try to avoid crowds, this is one event I love to attend. I put on something a bit weird and feel that I can let my inner child out to roam for one afternoon.  DSC_0008

My practical side volunteers with Zero Waste McMinnville. I go early to volunteer, thereby grabbing a parking space pretty close to the action.  The work always stops for the parade, so there is nothing lost in volunteering. What you gain is being an active participant in reducing the amount of trash that goes to the landfill.

At the UFO Festival, at the weekly farmers’ markets, at TurkeyRama and at several more public events that attract residents as well as visitors, there are several kinds of tasks that need volunteers. farmers market as

If you are a people person, we need you to help stand or sit by one of the collection station as a Station Host. This is the place where people (learn to) sort their garbage into “recyclable”, “compostable” or “landfill”. There is a bucket for liquids left in drink containers, and another container for cans and bottles. Most of the time, people appreciate the help learning, especially now that Recology had to adjust what can be taken for recycling.  There are, however, always a few people who just get glee out of purposely doing it wrong. You learn to ignore them.

Two other tasks may be for you if you don’t want to interact with people much.  One is the Runner, who uses a 2-wheel dolly and collects the trash bags and brings them back to the sorting station.

The Sorters, wearing gloves and aprons, actually open all the trash bags and then “super sort”, clearly making sure the right trash goes into the right category. Everything is weighed in order to check how the event is doing each year.

Volunteer shifts are generally 3 hours long and some events need 4 people (Farmers’ Market) and some, like the UFO Festival, TurkeyRama and the Highland Games need over 50 people!

  • If you sit at home feeling blue because you don’t know anyone, join us.
  • If you enjoy doing things with your friends, join us.
  • If you want to go to the event, join us.
  • If you have never been to the event, join us.
  • And, for the Highland Games, if you want to go but don’t want to pay admission, join us.

To join in the fun go to the EVENT SIGN-UP page. The volunteer coordinator will contact you and answer your questions.

Wanted: Photo Journalist

Zero Waste McMinnville now has an Instagram account and needs someone to manage it. If you don;t know what Instagram is, this opportunity might not be for you but that depends on your learning curve for a new app. Scan_20180419

Instagram is a way to communicate with others through photographs and short descriptive captions.

Knowing how to connect with people, especially here in McMinnville, who will enjoy learning about how to be a Zero Waster is important, so knowledge of how to use the software is important. farmers market as

In order to achieve our goal of diverting 90% of the trash away from the landfill by 2024 we MUST reach more people through our marketing efforts.

The ideal person would be someone who is interested in this project, willing to show up at events where Zero Waste is helping sort the trash, and has curiosity to add other photos of interest in this subject. Please contact Beth Rankin at sunbeamtn@yahoo.com or message back.