Artist Spotlight: Janet Ronacher and Fiber Design By Janet

Sometimes something completely unexpected causes a life path to take a slight turn in a direction previously unexplored.  Janet Ronacher explains, “I began fusing plastic bags in my artwork after reading that the Hurricane in Haiti destroyed the dwellings of residents.  The monsoon rains that continued after the Hurricane horrified a Bend woman who decided to get her friends together to iron 10’ x 10’ tarps to give the Haitians some shelter.  I have never met the woman but I was so impressed with her can-do spirit as she sent many tarps to Haiti.”

And so, a seed was planted and Janet started to explore this new concept. After thinking about the woman in Bend and dreaming about the possibilities Janet started experimenting with small bags.  That included layering bags, ironing them
together until she had roughly a 12” x 24” piece of plastic that she could cut into strips and weave as baskets. C870E4A5-C23F-4414-8FD8-E8ABFFBEB9EF - Janet Ronacher

“I was surprised that the bags I had were not  enough to really work as I thought they should.  So I asked friends and neighbors for any bags they thought were bright and colorful for me to try.  I was shocked at the number of folks who were delighted to have a use for the bags.  That one basket the size of a 6” x 6” box used over thirty bags. It was difficult to count the bags and keep ironing and then weaving so I never counted again.”AFA5D070-9C87-4D32-957E-46063B6C56D9 - Janet Ronacher

(The difference between Janet and me (and maybe many of you) is that her work is art. Mine, at best, would be “craft”. This is a good time to explain that the jury process was used to separate out the work of people who, while done well, just did not reach that level of art we hoped to introduce to the public. Janet’s ability to take one of the biggest contributors to an environmental mess on our planet and produce something attractive and even functional is a talent that many do not have.)03B65C2A-E731-4A0D-9547-425A833F8C59 - Janet Ronacher (1)

“I feel good about using reclaimed materials as my medium since it is so plentiful and I feel compelled to keep as much as possible out of the oceans, waterways and food supplies of animals and humans.  I have read that plastic never really goes away and that it has a half life of over 400 years. Yes I might run out of materials eventually and my work will someday become waste also.  In the meantime I will continue to save the environment one bag at a time until scientists and engineers find a better alternative.”3542AE58-7144-4295-9F32-EFBB90327938 - Janet RonacherJanet Ronacher and Fiber Design By Janet will be located at Booth #31.

Recycling is NOT the “Best” Answer

I’m so proud to live in a city that is making great efforts to reduce its trash; to teach and learn about recycling and composting and all that. But we still have a big problem, folks,  and it will take more than McMinnville to solve it. However, McMinnville people have to be part of it as well.

The desire for status quo is so strong. People really hate to change habits and that includes corporate America as much or even more than each person who fights issues like a single use bag ban. We Americans have a love affair with oil and plastic.  Too many people can’t see what other options can work as well and major manufacturers know what they know and most of the time, want to just continue business as usual.

Corporations know that to modify their system will cost money. A change not only means identifying a more sustainable solution that provides similar safety and product preservation, but retooling assembly lines for those new items. That costs money and they like to EARN money, not spend it.

As long as we consumers are quiet and don’t complain, things will stay the same. This issue, like much else in our society, has to be driven from the grassroots.

When we understand that our fish and shellfish now has microplastics in it (yes, you are eating plastic…and it is IN YOU), when we read that even the deepest part of the Pacific Ocean, the Marianas Trench, has plastic in it, the time is past when we should act. So, let’s get going!

Let’s start with identifying major players in the plastic pollution world. When people do massive clean-ups along beaches around the world, many inventories are done to identify just what is ending up in the ocean. (This blog is not about addressing the problems of waste management and how trash ends up in the sea. Personal and societal behaviors are a whole other blog subject!)

In a recent inventory of a massive beach clean-up in the Pacific, it became clear that certain brands are packaging their food products in plastic that are showing up in humongous amounts.

plastic pollution survey
source: Eco-Business

It is time for us to tell them to find substitutes. It is time to stop buying those plastic containers and tell them we will go back to their product when they become more sustainable.

Now, some of these corporations have made some changes and a few others have some packaging that is not plastic.  McDonald’s, for example, has posted their goals to be implemented by 2030 (WHAT????? 11 years away??? WHY so long?) to become a more sustainable food service company.  Most of these deal with sourcing their food from more sustainable farming practices. This year they revamped their packaging, getting away from Styrofoam and also not handing out plastic straws unless requested.  Since McDonald’s is global, environmental advocates hope that they will set an example that will be followed by others.

Meanwhile, you have the top users of plastic (Coca-Cola, Pepsico and Nestle) saying they will source all their bottles with recycled plastic by 2025. The problem with sounding green like this is few people realize that less than 10% of all plastic used in the world is actually recycled. That means our appetite for plastic requires more and more NEW plastic to be manufactured.

Image result for plastic trash in ocean
source: Eco-Business

When we hear that as a nation, the US is no longer dependent on oil from the Middle East, it boggles my mind (perhaps yours also) that our pristine wilderness areas in the West and Alaska are now being sold for mineral rights, including drilling for more oil.  The environmental costs will be horrendous as damage is caused that will not be able to be repaired.  The loss of pristine ecosystems, the destruction of habitat, is probably the last thing on the mind of people who seek the next corporate profit.Image result for oil exploration in alaska

But we, the consumers, are what drives profit. We can affect that NOW. If you buy soda, buy it in glass bottles. In fact, look for glass for packaging where many plastics are now used.  Check out GoodGuide to learn how over 75,000 products meet or fail environmental and health standards. Use your buying power to help drive corporations to make healthier decisions for your body and the planet.  Please.

source: Gunther Report

It’s Hard to Get My Head Around It….

Apparently, it’s hard for many people to get their head around how large a plastic pollution problem there is in our world.  We love our plastic but we also like to imagine that when we throw things “away” they actually disappear…….but that is not the case at all. Read on:

Associated Press, Wednesday, December 18, 2018

LONDON – The burgeoning crisis in plastic waste has won the attention of Britain’s Royal Statistical Society, which chose 90.5 percent – the proportion of plastic waste that has never been recycled – as its international statistic of the year.

The society, which chooses a winner from nominations made by the public, picked the statistic generated in a U.N. report based on the work of U.S. academics Roland Geyer, Jenna R Jambeck and Kara Lavender Law.

Public awareness of the problem has been growing, particularly after filmmaker David Attenborough’s documentary “Blue Planet II” showed sea turtles shrouded in plastic among other horrors.

Geyer says he was honored by the accolade and hopes “it will help draw attention to the problem of plastic pollution that impacts nearly every community and ecosystem globally.” https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2018/12/18/plastic-90-5-percent-not-recycled/2346873002/

If you recycled all the plastic garbage in the world, you could buy the NFL, Apple and Microsoft SFGate.com<http://SFGate.com>, Tuesday, December 18, 2018, by Liberty Vittert, Washington University in St Louis

THE CONVERSATION) This year, I served on the judging panel for The Royal Statistical Society’s International Statistic of the Year. On Dec. 18, we announced the winner: 90.5 percent, the amount of plastic that has never been recycled. Okay – but why is that such a big deal?  Much like Oxford English Dictionary’s “Word of the Year” competition, the international statistic is meant to capture the zeitgeist of this year. The judging panel accepted nominations from the statistical community and the public at large for a statistic they feel shines a light on today’s most pressing issues.

Last year’s winner was 69. That’s the annual number of Americans killed, on average, by lawn mowers – compared to two Americans killed annually, on average, by immigrant jihadist terrorists and the 11,737 Americans killed annually by being shot by another American. That figure, first shared in The Huffington Post, was highlighted in a viral tweet by Kim Kardashian in response to the proposed migrant ban.

This year’s statistic came into prominence from a United Nations report. The chair of the judges and RSS president, Sir David Spiegelhalter, said: “It’s really concerning that so little plastic has ever been recycled and, as a result, so much plastic waste has leached out into the world’s environment. It’s a great, growing and genuinely world problem.”
Let’s take a closer look at this year’s winning statistic. About 90.5 percent of the 6.3 billion metric tons of plastic waste produced since mass production began about 60 years ago is now lying around our planet in landfills and oceans or has been incinerated. If we don’t change our ways, by 2050, there will be about 12 billion metric tons of plastic waste.

When the panel first began looking at this statistic, I really didn’t have any comprehension of what billions of tons of plastic means. Based on a study from 2015 and some back of the envelope calculations, that’s the equivalent of 7.2 trillion grocery bags full of plastic as of 2018.

But again, I still didn’t quite have a feel for how much that actually is. People tend to use distance measurements to compare numbers, so I tried that. Assuming that a grocery bag of plastic is about 1 foot high, if you stacked the grocery bags, you could go to the moon and back 5,790 times. That’s starting to feel a bit more real.

In fact, if you could monetize all of the plastic trash clogging up our environment – including the 12 percent that is incinerated– you could buy some of the world’s biggest businesses.

Assuming it costs 3.25 cents to produce a plastic bottle, we can estimate that a grocery bag contains about US$1 of plastic material production. (I took a grocery bag and filled it with 31 bottles.) So 7.2 trillion grocery bags is the equivalent of a cool $7.2 trillion.
What can you buy with that? Apple, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Walmart, Exxon, GM, AT&T, Facebook, Bank of America, Visa, Intel, Home Depot, HSBC, Boeing, Citigroup, Anheuser-Busch, all the NFL teams, all the MLB teams and all the Premier League Football teams.

In other words, if someone could collect and recycle all the unrecycled plastic on earth, this person would be richer than any individual on the planet.
One of the most difficult aspects of statistics is putting the numbers into a context that we can wrap our heads around, into a format that means something to us. Whatever it is that speaks to you, all I can say is that this speaks to me. It’s clearly time to clean up our act. https://www.sfgate.com/news/article/If-you-recycled-all-the-plastic-garbage-in-the-13474181.php

Your Turn

I just finished reading a novel about World War II which centered on a German woman who was in her early 20s when hell came to her town. It described how she struggled to survive while providing for her infant daughter and actions she took that enabled her and her child to eat while sacrificing some portion of her soul. When the Americans entered the area they rounded up all the townspeople and marched them to Buchenwald, the adjacent concentration camp and put them to work for a day burying the dead.  It put the reality of what had been happening next door in front of their eyes. They could no longer be complacent in the fact that they knew….they knew and they did nothing or very little.

We’re there, people. Not a concentration camp killing people in Yamhill County, but as a society we are doing oh so very little to not kill our oceans and our earth.  Even those of us who have acknowledged the monster feel insignificant against the tide of plastic pollution.

In the novel, the main character had been kicked out of her family home because she had become pregnant with a Jewish lover she tried to hide. He had been discovered and taken away, her father had the typical knee-jerk reaction and so she ran. The local baker took her in and taught her to bake. She discovered the baker was bringing extra bread and hiding it in a tree that the camp inmates could access as they marched back from a day of grueling labor to the camp. When the baker was caught and killed, the woman took over. So, even though she could do little, she did that. Afraid always of being caught, tortured and killed, but she did it.

And so must we. We have to change our ways. We’re not at risk yet….but it’s getting closer.  Check out this video.

I don’t know how to reach the people who are not already enlightened. In a previous chapter of my life when I was learning about how many of the foods people chose to eat can cause life debilitating illness, I became angry and my blogs became preachy. A wise woman I did not know cautioned me not to “yell”. No one will listen if I yell. She became a close and loving friend I will always trust, because that is true.  So I want to raise awareness to those people in our community that already don’t seem to have caught on.

Personally, I am struggling with some  knee and hip problems that keep me from walking our wonderful Oregon beaches. The only one I can access is the drive-down beach at Pacific City at the haystack.  That area is so busy that any trash that washes up gets cleaned up quickly. But the other beaches, I have been told, need regular clean-up.

Dead fish on a beach surrounded by washed up garbage.
Source: greenliving.lovetoknow.com

Now, it is not really littering by beach lovers, although there is a tiny bit of that. What is happening is the normal ocean currents and waves carries plastic trash to our sands.  We don’t know the origin of our beach litter, but we know if there is that much on the sand, it stands to reason that our waters are pretty loaded. We love our fresh seafood here in the Northwest and now many ocean animals are dying not only because they are ingesting plastic trash but because the water quality is being affected.   Check out this video. 

What can we do? We’re 50 miles inland and no one here is dumping their garbage in the water we think. So we may think we are not complicit.

But there is another level. It is the choice of what we purchase and use  in our households, in our workplaces, in our recreation.

If we each reduce our dependence on plastic and ELIMINATE our use of single-use plastic, the manufacturers will begin to feel the reduction of income and make the changes that are needed.

For example, we heard a lot of “About time!” comments when McMinnville instituted the plastic bag ban at store checkouts. We also heard a number of complaints from people who just hate change, any change.  Recently, as more and more cities and countries eliminate plastic bags from use in their area, manufacturers are beginning to explore other ways to provide a similar product made from vegetable matter. Those bags will be able to be composted and so, return nutrients to the soil.

bioplastic-bags-made-from-cassava-and-shrimp-
BIOPLASTIC BAGS FROM CASSAVA AND SHRIMP WASTE Source: https://materia.nl/article/bioplastic-bags-cassava-shrimp/

Part of the reason this message has to get out to everyone is because recycling is no longer the easy answer. American culture is kind of lazy; people do the right thing when it is easy. For that reason we have curbside pickup of mixed recyclables and do not require households to sort into the many categories that would make it easier for Recology to find buyers for the material. Therefore, we have mixed collection and even though people are asked to clean the containers, many people do not. This food waste adds up to contamination levels that has lead the Chinese to refuse our trash.

And really, why should we have it so easy to think our trash disappears and we need not be responsible for it?  This is something people have had to deal with from the very earliest civilizations. Midden piles are an archaeologist’s key to figuring out how people lived in that place and time.

What does your trash say about you and your lifestyle?

 

The Struggle with Plastic: Why Recycling is not the Reliable Solution

I went to India a few years ago and saw many wonderful things. But this was not one.

DSCF6504
Monkeys were being relocated from urban centers to a refuge in the countryside and the area was covered in all kinds of litter.
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Towns were also covered in debris, including dry river beds. During monsoon season, all the trash flows into the Indian Ocean.
South Pacific uninhabited island beach
Uninhabited atolls in the Pacific Ocean have trash strewn beaches, all from debris washed to sea. Source: Kolomthota

 

Dead albatross Midway Atoll
Seabirds as well as ocean creatures are found with plastic trash in their stomachs. Mistaken for food, they obviously die from starvation if not clogged digestive systems. Source: http://globetamk.weebly.com

 

Croatian national park beach
And in case you think it is only our Pacific Rim neighbors with bad habits, even the  Adriatic Sea has its similar issues when winter currents brings trash to a national park in Croatia. Source: Tourist board of Mljet
WV roadside trash
And we are well aware that not all of our own neighbors practice good trash disposal habits. This photo was taken in West Virginia but it could be almost anywhere here in the United States.

 

recology truck
Here in McMinnville we have waste removal service that tries to provide the answer. Recology trucks come though our neighborhoods so we can have curbside pickup for items that are recyclable, a separate collection specifically for glass, more for yard waste, and then those items that are destined for the landfill.

 

DSC_0060
And we’ve had it easy. Except for the glass, we are not required to sort our recyclable items. We dump it all in our bins and the trucks take them to the center.

 

DSC_0072
Prior to a recent decision, all these unsorted recyclables were bundled up and sent to China.

However, China recently decided that the mixture they received from us and other areas throughout North America were too contaminated to be useful to them. In other words, that greasy pizza box, those unwashed cans of baked beans, those paper plates from the picnic with the residual potato salad on it all has added up to undesirable trash.

China-map-no recyclables
Source: Packaging Digest

It is time we realize we haven to stop exporting our garbage to China…or anywhere….and take responsibility for it.  So, how do we compare with other nations?

top 25 countries
We can see with this chart that the US is not a leader. However, there are also some discrepancies on how some of these other nations consider their recyclable methods. Some, for example, include metals that are obtained after the incineration process.  Source: World Economic Forum
top 10 countries plastic recycling
So, adjusting to make sure the comparison is the same, we can see that Germany, for example, drops from over 65% to well over 55% , still not shabby behavior on a national level at this time. Source: World Economic Forum

So, how can we here in the United States and more specifically, in McMinnville, improve how we handle our trash?

ttal plastics
The first step is to understand that most of the plastic that was ever produced is still with us.

We have to understand that just because the piece of plastic says it is

RECYCLABLE

RECYCLED

Oh sure, there are some items that are recycled from plastic.  Some  toys, some decking and other outdoor furniture all hold up well. But by and large, we are not addressing the manufacturing market on this issue here in the US.

vermont woods furntirue
Vermont Woods Studios‘s colorful Polywood all-weather outdoor furniture is made from over 90% recycled materials!  Source: https://vermontwoodsstudios.com/

Other nations are ahead of us. Perhaps it is poverty that drives creativity.

Conceptos-Plasticos-recycled-brick-building-2-1020x610
Recyclable plastics are melted and then reshaped into the bricks. This $6,800 house was built from recycled bricks in just 5 days.  Source: Conceptos Plásticos

Perhaps there are issues with building codes, but it is amazing to see the way people in Mexico and Central America are developing low cost housing options that use plastic, either melted and formed into interlocking bricks or building a frame with wire to hold soda bottles and then stuccoing the exterior!

plastic-bottle-house stucco
Source: https://www.dogonews.com/2016/5/28/panamas-plastic-bottle-village-will-be-constructed-from-recycled-pet-bottles

When I saw these houses, understanding we have a different climate and building codes, I believe we might have a low cost solution for housing the homeless.  We certainly have plenty of plastic.

Another exciting use of plastic is turning it into a paving medium. Whether is it low-tech like this road in India

plastic road India
Source: Jamshedpur (India) Utility and Services Company

or this higher-tech version being considered in The Netherlands, perhaps potholes could be a thing of the past.

dutch plastic road
Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-drive/news

It appears that we could take advantage of our 50 year dependence on plastic to build a new industry here in the United States that will improve infrastructure issues.

But now, we also need to REDUCE our use of plastics. This will be the significant step to getting this world wide trash problem under control.

think glocbal act local
source: https://www.teepublic.com/t-shirt/757845-think-global-act-local

 

 

 

Being a Better Steward

The Bible urges us to be good stewards of the earth….to treat it with respect and care as we mine, farm, and build factories; as we live in or near cities with their traffic and congestion and pollution issues. We often can feel overwhelmed when we hear about the ozone layer being affected, by many water sources now full of chemicals.

Whatever denomination of Christianity you may be or if you belong to another religion or do not practice any faith, there is a reason Earth Day was established in 1970 and this April 20th there is just as many reasons, if not more, to  be concerned and get involved.

A headstart is offered by the Anglican Church. They are offering ways to reduce your plastic consumption during the 40 days of Lent.

Now, I personally am not Anglican, but I can appreciate the effort to encourage us. All of these are important. Some are easy to implement. Others might be a bit more challenging. But can you imagine how much cleaner this world will become if more of us become better stewards?

Check it out!  To read it more clearly go to this link.

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Scan_20180220 (2)Scan_20180220 (3)

Reduce: Changing our Reliance on Plastic

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.

First, REDUCE the amount of single use items. Most are plastic.

How did we get into this habit? Plastic is a polymer and polymers has been around for a long time.  (Check out this review of the history of plastic.)  Basically, before the early 1900s, polymers in use were all derived from organic material mostly from different plants. But in 1907 the first synthetic plastic, Bakelite, was developed using fossil fuels, phenol, an acid derived from coal tar. New use of oil resulted in the development of  polystyrene in 1929, polyester in 1930, polyvinylchloride (PVC) and polythene in 1933, as well as nylon in 1935.Image result for bakelite

Use of plastics exploded during World War II and after the war, manufacturers turned to the domestic market.  I was born in 1954 and I remember my parents using aluminum foil and waxed paper for wrapping food. As plastic wrap became available, it was pricey, so my frugal parents held out for a while, but Mom was happy when she found plastic dishes and cups for our camping trips and perhaps that was the transition item that made her more comfortable using that new material.

Today we are surrounded with plastics and it is hard to think of alternatives but we are at that point in our awareness of how bad plastics are for the environment and for our  health that we MUST start to transition away….REDUCE our use.

Evidence is mounting that the chemical building blocks that make plastics so versatile are the same components that might harm people and the environment. And its production and disposal contribute to an array of environmental problems, too. For example:

  • Chemicals added to plastics are absorbed by human bodies. Some of these compounds have been found to alter hormones or have other potential human health effects.
  • Plastic debris, laced with chemicals and often ingested by marine animals, can injure or poison wildlife.
  • Floating plastic waste, which can survive for thousands of years in water, serves as mini transportation devices for invasive species, disrupting habitats.
  • Around 4 percent of world oil production is used as a feedstock to make plastics, and a similar amount is consumed as energy in the process.
  • Plastic buried deep in landfills can leach harmful chemicals that spread into groundwater.Image result for plastic health issues

The City Of McMinnville is continuing to implement the Bag It Better campaign. Single use plastic bags used to carry home items from stores often are not reused by the consumer, but thrown away.  Large stores implemented the ban September 1st and coming up this March 1st, the small convenience stores will also ask you to bring your bag into the shop or pay a small fee for a paper sack.  Since most plastic bags either end up in the landfill where they will never decompose, or they get lifted by the wind before they can be covered and fly away, often landing in streams and rivers and eventually to the ocean,  Zero Waste McMinnville has worked with the City and the stores to provide information to consumers to make this transition.

Other plastic items that are used only once and then discarded should also be eliminated from our use.

  • Plastic straws were a wonderful improvement over the paper straws I knew as a child, but now we know plastic straws are also a problem.  Paper straws are making a comeback and some people also carry their own reusable stainless-steel or glass straws.
  • Alternative food wrapping is now available. Cotton fabric with beeswax and silicone circles that mold to containers help, or switch to reusable containers made from glass. Lots of people use mason jars.  Here’s instructions to make your own food wrap.  
  • If you have been a bottled water drinker, switch to a reusable stainless steel container and install a filter on your faucet to help screen out the chlorine and other chemicals used to treat the water. This will improve the taste.
  • Carry an insulated mug with you and ask the barista to fill it instead of handing you your fancy latte in a plasticized cup with a plastic lid.
  • Babies need water too but a healthier bottle would be made from glass covered by a silicone sleeve to protect it from breakage.Image result for glass baby bottle with silicone sleeve
  • Rather than use paper or plastic plates for eating, switch to porcelain (yes, they must be washed to be reused) or bamboo which is biodegradable and compostable.
  • If you’re going out to eat and you know you always get a doggie bag, bring your own container instead of using the clamshell offered to you.
  • Image result for bamboo forks disposableStop using plastic forks, knives, and spoons when you picnic. If you don’t want to bother carrying your flatware from home, there are utensils made with compostable materials like bamboo.
  • Improve your diet by eliminating sodas and other beverages that come in plastic containers. If you enjoy a carbonated beverage often, get one of the soda machines. Not only will you decrease the amount of plastic, but you can add interesting fruit flavors to make an Italian soda at home.
  • Image result for plastic berry containersReturn the little containers that hold berries and your egg cartons to the farmer at the market. Or, if you shop only at supermarkets, bring a container from home with the tare weight (empty container weight) written on it so the cashier can deduct that from the overall package weight.
  • Give up chewing gum. It’s also plastic.
  • Stop eating frozen foods. This will be hard but as you improve your cooking from scratch, you will be eliminating more plastic from your life that can be found in the packaging.
  • Buy from the bulk bins as much as possible. The unit cost is usually considerably lower than a similar packaged items found on the store shelves. By using mesh bags, you will also eliminate the plastic bag in the bulk section. For wet items like honey, syrup or peanut butter, bring a container (again, mark the tare weight) or wash the plastic container the store provides when you are finished with the food and put the clean container and lid into your bags that you carry for shopping.Image result for mesh food bags

So many more hints and tips are available online. If you want, please share any ideas you have developed either by commenting to this blog or writing a comment on Facebook.

Another blog will offer tips how to reduce plastic use in other areas besides food.

 

 

 

Focusing On The Goal

Dreamers who get angry just enough that so many just can’t see what is right in front of them.  These are the ones who understand just what a precious place our home in space is, this Earth. And these are the ones who also understand that others do not have that enlightenment about our environment, and so they decide to teach.

Farmers who work the soil to produce nutritious food know the real dirt.  These are the ones who understand just how important clean water is, how the soil must be clear of toxins, how activity on their piece of land affects the land around it.

Children born and yet unborn whose health depends on clean air, clean water, clean food deserve us to sustain a healthy environment.   These are the ones who will be affected with toxicities in the air, water and soil, and whom we have a duty to protect.

Skeptics who shrug and say they are just one person in a sea of stubborn habits. These are the ones who sometimes learn well with carrots (information explaining the benefits of a change in sustainable behavior). And these are also the ones who might need the stick to learn, persuading them to make the small effort to change.

Drive-through and take-out convenience store eaters who have lots of stuff to sort properly. These are the ones who understand which wrappers and containers can be recycled and which, unfortunately, will end up at the landfill. And these are also the ones who refuse to take the few seconds to sort and thereby send more to the landfill, causing our trash service fees to possibly increase.

Businesses who reduce the size of the packaging and switch to recyclable or compostible materials are seeing reduced packaging costs overall. These are the ones who are willing to consider a change to new materials as not only a resident of the Earth but recognize a popular marketing move also.

People who appreciate the beauty of McMinnville and the surrounding countryside probably also feel that each and every time they drive home from Portland.  These are the ones who know that litter is an eyesore and so carry their trash home for proper sorting. These are the ones who go the step further and pick up any litter they see.

People who get it, who understand each of us is a tiny but important part of the Whole and we each can help by making sustainable choices.  These are the ones who pitch in, maybe one event a year or maybe more. These are also the ones who can’t personally work on the programs but can help be Sustaining Circle members who can add financially to support the activities.

All these and also you. We can make Zero Waste McMinnville zero waste by 2024!!!

 

 

First Choice: Stop Using. Second Choice: Recycling Coming Sometime

There are a few things that are part of our way of life and we tend not to think about the influence they might have beyond our need. It’s time to start thinking about those things. Zero Waste McMinnville wants to help by pointing out where we need to make changes. This is one.

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We all know Styrofoam…..it’s that hard foam used to insulate things…the inside of our walls and our hot cups for coffee and trays for microwavable food are the most common uses. Styrofoam is a trade name fora petroleum-based plastic named polystyrene.  Like Kleenex for facial tissues, Coke for carbonated soft drinks and Xerox for copiers, Styrofoam is the commonly used name, no matter who makes the product.

LIke other petroleum based products, styrofoam causes problems in our environment both in the production, use and disposal. Manufacturing the base chemical polystyrene has a number of toxic effects on workers, including irritation of the skin, eyes, and upper respiratory tract, and gastrointestinal effects. Chronic exposure affects the central nervous system showing symptoms such as depression, headache, fatigue, and weakness, and can cause minor effects on kidney function and blood. Styrene is classified as a possible human carcinogen by the EPA and by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).

Then, we use much of it to hold food. When warm, chemicals leach out of the food container into the food. This also can result in a number of health risks.

Finally, we toss the container into the trash. Currently, McMinnville has no system to recycle Styrofoam, so it goes to the landfill.  Not only does it take up about 25-30% of all landfills, it does not break down, essentially maintaining that mountain of trash for generations or centuries…..or millennia.

Portland has restricted the use of Styrofoam but it obviously is heavily used elsewhere within the metropolitan area. Agilyx, a polystyrene recycling plant in Tigard has developed and is now installing the technology to process waste polystyrene such as packing Styrofoam and other containers.   The process will reduce it to its chemical elements so that it can be sold to manufacturers and be used repeatedly. 

Recycling polystyrene currently is economically feasible.  The process demonstrated to the Zero Waste McMinnville team at the Agilyx facility involves chopping the waste material, cleaning it, drying it, and extruding it with heat to form pellets, which can then be used for more production.

Zero Waste McMinnville volunteers are looking for ways to collect polystyrene waste and facilitate local use of a densifier, which presses the material into blocks that then can be shipped to a recycling facility such as Agilyx.  Efforts are being made to identify sources for grant money and submit an application for the needed equipment.
Zero Waste McMinnville volunteers are interviewing local merchants to identify the amounts of Styrofoam waste generated and possible collection and storage sites.  Our goal is to reduce the amount of polystyrene waste taken to the landfill by 90% by 2024.  This means businesses and households will need to take responsibility to reduce use of Styrofoam or take advantage of the developing recycling technology resources.
Our end goal, of course, is to eliminate the use of polystyrene, with its toxic manufacturing processes and by-products.  This means that we need to bring to the attention of customers, manufacturers, and businesses who presently use polystyrenes that other materials are available and more environmentally sound.

 

Alternatives, such as recycled paper, bamboo and corn plastics, are biodegradable when composted and would be diverted from the landfill. Recyclables can be  and compostibles will soon be picked up curbside at your homes and businesses.

 

Swimming in Plastic

My first airplane trip was in 1968 when I headed to Puerto Rico on a Girl Scout event. I don’t remember anything much about the flight except I was reading The President’s Plane is Missing and we went through a thunderstorm.

My next trip was in 1972 when I crossed the Atlantic. The flight was fine. I was young and the long trip did not bother me.

I took another flight across the Atlantic Ocean in 1981 and I noticed something that I had not seen on the flight 11 years before. In 2010, I noticed it again…and more of it. What was it? White stuff.

Seriously, white stuff?  On the water. And no, I was told we were too high to see white caps on waves.

It was trash.

Our throw away society also is a throw on the ground society.  Trash washes into storm sewers and sometimes directly into rivers, which flow, obviously, into the oceans. Light weight trash at landfills, like the plastic bags you get when shopping at the supermarket,  also gets blown by the wind and where landfills are located near rivers, guess what happens?

So, we’ve been hearing for years now that we have floating islands of plastic trash in the Pacific Ocean. Check out this video which was compiled by CNN on Midway, an atoll in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, thousands of miles away from population centers along the Pacific Rim.

And, in case you live in the middle of the US or along the eastern seaboard, you are not guiltless. The same problem shows up in the Atlantic, as I noticed from my jet window.  

And yet, most of the plastic in the ocean is NOT large intact pieces. Over 90% are pieces of plastic smaller than your thumbnail. Plastics floating on seawater deteriorate because of the chemicals in the water as well as the sun.  As horrible as the floating islands of large trash are, these tiny particles are even more of the problem. 

We here on the west coast are well aware of the radiation concerns about fish we consume. The meltdown at the Fukishima nuclear reaction with the subsequent leakage into the ocean makes us wary, but this is already on top of the ambient nuclear signature caused by a multitude of bomb tests on various atolls in the 1950s and 1960s.  Now, in addition to those radiation concerns, we need to be aware that fish ingesting small pieces of plastic are most likely entering our diet also.

We have all seen these photos before. Please understand that this is reality. We are not being good stewards of our planet. 

 

 

 

 

So, what can you do? From this day forward, never never never toss your garbage on the ground. Carry it with you from the beach, from the trail, from the backyard. 

Dispose of your trash properly. Recyclables need to be put in the appropriate containers so they can be reused.  Things that can be put into compost need to be. The smallest amount of our garbage should be what goes to the landfill or incinerator.

When I visited India a few years ago,  I saw first hand what happens in a society where trash removal is not a public priority. Now, the government of India is trying to overcome decades of throw-away consumerism. 

We are fortunate that waste disposal is provided in just about every area of the United States. Those people who opt not to pay for trash removal may be part of the issue, but there are many of us who just get sloppy or careless or indiscriminate.

Help model behavior that shows you are a good steward of our planet.  Reduce plastic as much as possible in your life.  Switch from plastic bags to reusable ones you carry into the store when you shop.