Imagine This — Now Let’s Make It Happen!

We’ve heard your frustration. We understand you want to do the right thing. But it seems the target is always moving, making it hard.

Yes, that is the reality of recycling.

We got complacent. When our mixed recycling was sent “away” to the Far East, we could pat ourselves on the back that we had been great; we had sorted our trash and sent our plastics and paper to a place where they would be reprocessed into more of the same. We believed that. It was rarely true.

When China and then more of the Southeastern Asia nations started refusing OUR garbage we first felt the pain of betrayal, but then we realized it is OUR trash and we need to be more responsible.

We’ve talked about REFUSING to spend money on items you may want but recognize the packaging is adding to the problem. Only when manufacturers feel some pain through reduced income by our REFUSAL, will they explore alternative and greener packaging.

We’ve talked about COMPOSTING those overlapping items that could be recycled but can also be composted, like cardboard and paper. Some of the limitations that make paper unable to be recycled make them prime for composting but even some of those are not smart to compost. IMG_3980 (2)

Let’s talk about RECYCLING those items that are not a high enough volume to be collected curbside, but perhaps in an annual or semi-annual event.IMG_3998 (2)

Recently, the Washington Country Master Recyclers held another of their quarterly PlanetCon events at a Hillsboro High School. Residents in the county were invited to bring their batteries, electronics, Styrofoam, plastics and more to a one-day event.IMG_3969 (2)

There were about fifty volunteers to help direct traffic, accept (and refuse some) items, and then sort them. The items that had to be refused are those that have no local end user. Lists of acceptable items had been provided along with the marketing of the PlanetCon event, but people still bring others in the hopes they can send it to be repurposed. They were told, unfortunately, that some items still must go to the landfill.

PlanetCon also offered one table for swapping items that no longer had value to individuals but were in good condition for further use. Similar to the rest of  the event, there was no charge for this, but some rules in terms of what could be brought. IMG_3987 (2)

Are you interested in getting rid of items that could be collected at an annual recycling event?  Are you willing to put in some time to help this event happen?  We will need a planning committee and we will need volunteers at the event to make it flow well.

Currently there is no Master Recycler program in Yamhill County but it will be offered by Yamhill County Solid Waste if at least 10 people express interest.  Meanwhile, the county solid waste office holds several household hazardous collections each year.  The spring collection was in Newberg in mid May. An event in mid October will be held in McMinnville at the fairgrounds. Image result for there is no away

Artists Spotlight: Melody Hanson and HandyTotes

Introducing Melody Hanseon’s HandyTotes to you is the perfect time to explain that the name of this event, the McMinnville Recycled Arts Festival is a bit of a misnomer.

Yes, the event is in “McMinnville” and here in McMinnville we are making great strides to recognize issues that can reduce the waste we send to the landfill. Together, Zero Waste McMinnville and Recology help residents and visitors better understand how trash should be sorted and can have a better “end stage” than covered by dirt in an expanding mountain of garbage.

“Recycled” is a term that commonly means that the materials used to make an item can be reused to make a similar item. Plastic bottles to plastic bottles is a good example. But what about plastic things into other ways to use the same plastic things? Like we are seeing people elsewhere in the world use plastic bottles, filled with sand, as a building block material in developing nations. That is NOT recycling, but upcycling or “alternative use.”

We have many many many examples of UPCYCLING at the Festival…..not any recycled use really.

And then, the word “Arts”. The first common accepted usage is we were looking for items made with care, with meticulous attention to detail, to presentation in a new way. There is also a subsidiary definition of development of a skill that presents items that are used in new ways.  All that will be evident in the Nicholson Library during the Festival.

Melody Hanson reached a point when a collection of plastic needed to be cleared from her storage area. A couple years ago, she had an accumulation of empty polywoven feed bags and attempted to find a place to recycle them.  Not having any success, she started making tote bags for a few friends and neighbors for them to trial and give their feedback.  This grew in response and within a few months, she started an Etsy shop where she offers handmade tote bags with a large selection of different images.Assorted feedsack bags- Melody `Hanson

Now there are some people who think we should ban all plastics and I can get behind the idea that drilling for more oil  has to stop. We have more than enough plastic in the world. Let’s find ways to break them down and reuse the material.  The problem about plastic-that it will naturally take hundred and thousands of years to really break down-is also the benefit of why we like using that durable material.

The sturdy aspect of HandyTotes is that they will last a really really long time. You just have to remember to carry them back out to your car and into the store!IMG_6651 - Melody `Hanson (1)

Your effort to change that shopping container habit will add up, just like Melody feels about her effort to make the bags: “To convert materials that would otherwise go into the garbage into reusable tote bags.  To give useful materials a second life and prevent waste.  To help save the earth.”

We each can add our ways to help.

Melody Hanson and HandyTotes are at Table #3.

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.

A Few Steps BEFORE Recycling

Recycling is a feel-good process. Our trash hauler Recology identifies itself as a recycling company, not a landfill company.  That means when China and other Southeast Asian countries stopped taking mixed recyclables from the United States,  we had to go through an adjustment.

Last summer there were more restrictions about what was allowed in our bin. But Recology has worked hard to find buyers for our recyclables and more items are allowed now.  And you can now bring your polystyrene foam to the Depot.  Check Recology’s What Bin? app on their website to see how you should sort that item. Call the office at (503) 472-3176 if the answer is not provided in the software.

That is all good news, but it’s important that you also understand that not all recycling gets used that way. While things might be better here because of Recology’s priority,  less than 9% of plastics are recycled  worldwide.

You’ve seen the photos of how trashed the ocean is. You’ve read by 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than ocean animals. You’ve read the news that there is plastic inside our bodies now from the food we eat and water we drink.  We have no idea how this is affecting us.

It’s going to take some effort to clean things up so our children and their children have a healthier environment.

That is why Zero Waste McMinnville also encourages you to start REFUSING to buy items if they use plastic in their packaging…plastic that immediately has to be trashed…if you have a zero-waste option. Using the bulk bins in the supermarket is an easy way to make that transition. Most of the grocery stores in town have bins; Winco has a very large selection that also includes pet food. But there is one more step to being a zero-waster when you move to bulk bins: you need to bring re-usable containers with you. 

The stores provide plastic bags and plastic containers. The bags will go to the landfill and we know the issues with wind blowing that lightweight an item off the landfill and into the Yamhill River and onto adjacent properties.  I use mesh bags that I found online, but more are becoming available in the stores themselves to encourage this behavior. They are tightly woven and can hold solids, but fine items like sugars might fall through some larger weave bags.  I can toss them in the wash to make sure they stay clean to hold food. 

tare
Source: Wild Minimalist

I use an offered  plastic container to fill with peanut butter, but I wash it and bring it back to the store for re-use.  At this time there is no tare station at the bulk bins but if you want to bring your own containers, and many people prefer glass to plastic, you can stop at a check out and ask them to tare your container. Make sure to have them write the tare weight on the container or its lid. That way, when you are ready to pay, you will only pay for the weight of the contents.

REDUCING is another step to use to minimize your trash. One of the biggest waste issues in our homes is food. People may not like eating left-overs, so they get pushed to the back of the frig and eventually become fuzzy. Not going to eat that!  

So, when buying fresh food like fruits and vegetables, milk and other refrigerated items, having an idea of what you will make with the items will help minimize having extra sitting around and spoiling in your house.  Use your freezer to package up produce in season when locally grown fruits and vegetables taste so fresh. The library has cookbooks and the Extension Service on Lafayette Avenue also has information that can help you prepare your food for the freezer so it will be delicious and safe to eat at a later time.  

Dehydrating and canning are other ways to preserve surplus food as well as prepared dishes when you have leftovers. These methods also end up with a shelf-safe product, which means it can be put in the pantry or cupboard and not take up freezer space.

Image result for re-use
Source: Tanana Valley Watershed Association

RE-USE is another step that eliminates trash. Sometimes we buy something and enjoy it but stop using it either because habits change or something breaks.  If you really are not going to use something again, pass it on. Decluttering is a very freeing feeling and no reason to keep things you won’t use.  I had a father-in-law who filled his barn over 60 years with broken things because “he might need them.” We had a lot of clean-up to do when he passed on.  But he grew up in the Depression and learned to be frugal.  We also can be more frugal but not to that point!  If the item needs something fixed in order to use it, be creative because many manufacturers want us to be attached at the wallet and plan the obsolescence of their product.  Sometimes they don’t even offer parts so you can repair things.   You might find some of these ideas useful!

LOGO jpegIf you want some amazing ideas of re-use and alternative use make sure to come to the McMinnville Recycled Arts Festival April 26th & 27th at the Linfield College Nicholson Library. It really is a misnomer to call it a “recycled” arts festival as the artists have amazing items that have used things that might be considered trash in alternative ways to produce things to enjoy.  Alternative use or upcycling are more common terms for these things. Come and see.

Only after you REFUSE, REDUCE,  and consider  RE-USE are you ready to sort your trash into recycling, composting or landfill. 

Refusing Means Developing Circular Systems

If you listen to a segment of our society you will hear there is a need for more drilling for gas and oil. We  people of the earth want our electricity which definitely helps improve the standard of living. And some people in positions of power seem to see little need to spend more attention on developing technologies with alternative energies that can provide what we need without similar environmental impacts.

We also apparently want a lot of water in plastic bottles and the like, and those are NOT a necessity. There are options for that most of the time where we live. With the exception of a degraded water supply, the stuff coming out of our taps is usually drinkable here in the United States.  Essentially, anyone living here should be able to use refillable bottles and never buy a plastic one-time-use water bottle except in an emergency.

So, we can REFUSE to buy those water bottles.  And the companies that sell them will begin to get the message when their sales drop. They will hear us louder if we actually communicate with them.

And then, still wanting to make money, they will try to develop solutions that will consider alternative packaging. That packaging may be something we can re-use, but if they can’t find that, they will develop a return-to-the-manufacture policy that will put the onus on them to find a solution.

With the expense of drilling, refining and then manufacturing, plastics are pretty expensive to produce. You would think that a way to capture more than the 6-10% that is supposedly recycled in the US would increase, just because of the cost of new production. The recycling costs, however, are also expensive and companies would have to spend to build new infrastructure to take care of the problem.

It is a problem they make. But it is a problem we also cause with our demand.

Up until China closed the door to our trash we were happy to send our garbage “away”. We felt good because we could send them so much of our recyclable materials that our rate of recycling rose and in communities like McMinnville, we saw good reduction of what went to the landfill.

So, we have been forced to re-examine just what kind of life style our garbage tells about us and look for solutions.  Finding the point where businesses can still sell products and make a profit, where we consumers can obtain items we enjoy, AND where the earth is not being mistreated is difficult, but it exists!

circular economy considerations
source: recycling today

Some corporations have been making changes over the past decade and some more are coming on with efforts to decrease the amount their products influence our flow of trash.

Unilever is a huge corporation that makes a lot of products and I think many of us have items in our homes, many in plastic containers.

global-brazil-recycling-plastics-040517_tcm244-504557_w940
source: Unilever

Beach clean-up projects have inventoried collected plastics and Unilever is joined by others in the predominant plastic trash found.  Over 10,000 volunteers across 42 countries took on the world’s most ambitious plastic cleanup and brand audit project yet. Nine months, six continents, 239 cleanup events, and more than 187,000 pieces of trash later, we now have the most comprehensive snapshot to date of how corporations are contributing to the global plastic pollution problem.

They are, in order from most to least commonly found in global brand audits:

  1. Coca-Cola
  2. PepsiCo
  3. Nestlé
  4. Danone
  5. Mondelez International
  6. Procter & Gamble
  7. Unilever
  8. Perfetti van Melle
  9. Mars Incorporated
  10. Colgate-Palmolive

    Image result for plastic in ocean corporate audit
    source: Greenpeace

How plastics end up in the ocean is a problem that is being worked on around the globe, but please realize that the amount equivalent to one garbage truck load each minute ends up in the ocean.

No longer wanting to be the originator for that mess, In January 2017, Unilever committed to ensuring that 100% of their plastic packaging will be designed to be fully reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025.

Here are their considerations:

  1. Rethinking how we design our products: using our Design for Recyclability guidelines that we launched in 2014 and revised in 2017, we’re exploring areas such as modular packaging, design for disassembly and reassembly, wider use of refills, recycling and using post-consumer recycled materials in innovative ways.
  2. Driving systemic change in circular thinking at an industry level: such as through our work with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and the Global Plastics Protocol.
  3. Working with governments to create an environment that enables the creation of a circular economy, including the necessary infrastructure to collect and recycle materials.
  4. Working with consumers in areas such as recycling – to ensure they’re clear on different disposal methods (eg recycling labels in the US) – and collection facilities (eg Waste Bank in Indonesia).
  5. Exploring radical and innovative approaches to circular economy thinking through new business models.

Read about their plans to redesign their product containers involves using more recycled materials and making sure all new packaging is recyclable or compostable.

It is important to encourage them and others to make these changes. Most are inspired by the way the world almost completely agreed in Davos about ways to improve environmental impacts that are our responsibility. But corporations will need help from governments. As a citizen I would prefer no new tax cuts to provide incentive, but perhaps a tax hike to cover other infrastructure solutions if the corporations do not instill them themselves.

Again, our best first step is to REFUSE but writing to offer support for a more sustainable package will help them move in the right direction.

 

 

 

 

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

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.

How 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.short straw

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.