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

Artist Spotlight: Aundrea Harris and Underwood Estates

Over her life, Aundrea Harris learned her art from a mishmash of experiences and hobbies. Designing came early as a floral designer for the Portland Rose Festival and jewelry designer for one of her first jewelry design companies in the 1980s.  Aundrea’s  passion for art and beauty extended from flowers and beads to incorporate textiles and vintage elements.jewelry

To create beauty from recycled pieces all while reducing trash, is not only a skill, but a passion.  Aundera explains, ” Reclaimed materials are some of the best items to work with. Millions of pounds of fibers and textiles are disposed of daily. We discard damaged clothing when we stain it, so why not utilize the remains and create beauty?bags

“Beauty can be found in just about everything, one must just expand their creative mind! Not only does working with reclaimed materials help eliminate trash on our planet, but it also creates beauty out of something one never would have expected. Beauty is in everything…just look.”more jewels

Aundrea Harris and Underwood Estates is at Table #10.

Artist Spotlight: Laura Roberts and Deer to Ewe

Deer to Ewe is a husband and wife team who has enjoyed creating jewelry from found materials for five years.    Laura shared, “After 40 years of marriage we saw the need to really simplify but instead of throwing items out we looked at how we could make them into something new and beautiful not only for us but for others.”IMG_5363300 - Laura Roberts

Laura views the items they source as valuable raw material, including antlers and recycled tin/aluminum. “We do it to reduce waste, incur little or no cost to produce (except for time, which we have more of now) and for the challenge and uniqueness.”IMG_7143300 - Laura Roberts

This is just one way they can demonstrate that they care for the earth after all it is the only home we have. “We can enjoy what nature has given us and recycle what is man-made. The earth is beautiful! Let’s keep it that way!”IMG_6267300 - Laura Roberts

Laura Roberts and Deer to Ewe is at Table #21.

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.

Recycling Issues Lead to a New Step: REFUSING

When I volunteer at events like the UFO Festival or the downtown farmers’ market I try to chat with people who come over to what I call the “3-holer”, the sort station for recycling, composting and landfill. Some people avoid eye contact and toss whatever into wherever and scurry away……they do not want to really learn, so we use our little grabbers and move their trash into the correct bin.IMG_2155

But here in McMinnville, those kind of people are becoming fewer and fewer and everyone seems to be catching on. Sorting trash is really not rocket science….we each can learn it.  Persuasion techniques are needed for some more than for others, eh?

And some people are quite proud of how many years they have been recycling, even before it became so commonplace. Image result for proud recycler

But you know what? We do pretty well  here in Mac because our waste hauler, Recology, considers itself a recycling company, not a landfill company, so their business decisions are more sustainable. However, even at the rate we are successfully recycling at this time, all of us are  still losing ground over all.

While Recology has not measured what percentage of our total Image result for trucks dumping at landfilltrash is recyclable plastics,  a statewide study was done to estimate what our trash includes. In 2012 the trash we all handed over to all our waste haulers included this info: out of all the trash counted, almost 12% of it was plastic and only 3% of that was considered to be recyclable.  And most haulers are now carrying recyclables to their landfill.  Recology’s request for a rate hike late last year reflected their effort to store our recyclables until they can successfully identify end users.

So, while we all still need to sort our trash and continue to submit recyclables to Recology, we need to shift a bit.  I want to really start talking about REFUSING  as a way to live more sustainably.  Refusing is the act of saying NO to a product, even one you may be very much used to enjoying, because its packaging is wasteful.

As presented by the Earth Month Network suggests the 10-Rs of Sustainability include

REFUSE:  Reject the idea of utilizing anything that may cause harm to oneself, someone else or our delicate ecosystem.  Refuse to use food items and products that are falsely represented and not certified correctly. Refuse to do what is wrong.

One example that we’ve had to consider in our household relates to coconut oil. Over the past few years studies have shown that it is not the wonderfully “good for you” fat that we were told. Suggestions are being made to convert to palm oil. WHAT????? No way! The issue of where palm oil is in the healthy body scheme of things is not even up for discussion with me because I do know harvesting this product has caused deforestation of huge rain forest acreage and habitat of endangered species such as the orangutan, Borneo elephant and Sumatran tiger. For that reason alone I will chose as an informed consumer and responsible inhabitant of Planet Earth  to stop buying prepared cookies and crackers and other packaged foods that use palm oil. I have to be willing to take the time to read labels and then change my habits. (And if I want a cookie, bake it myself!)

Image result for rejection
source: The Business Journals

What about you? This is a bit harder (but higher in sustainable living) than what I am suggesting if you prefer to take smaller steps to changing old patterns.

Image result for store brand pasta  packaging
source: Dakota Growers

For an easier step that can add up to have a large impact, look at the packaging of what you buy.  If, for example, you purchase boxed pasta that is the lowest price, usually labeled as a store brand, you will be pleased to know you can save even more money if you bring a reusable bag (you have those already, right?) and buy from the bulk bins.  Now, some epicurean experts may have special preferences for a specific brand, but I easily imagine that most of our palates can’t really tell the difference between a premium Italian import and typical dried pasta offerings here. By purchasing from the bulk bin you are REFUSING the cardboard and plastic in the boxed version.  One step further would be to write to the food processor and tell them why you will no longer buy their brand.

 

If each of us begins to take a few minutes a year to communicate with the people who make the packaging choices, the message will be received loudly and clearly.  And they will make changes. And that will help us reduce, which is the end goal.

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

Styrofoam Collection Starts December 26, 2018

After two years of working on this issue, Annely Germane is celebrating! Amd she deserves her time of pride and we all can celebrate!  You can too! Starting December 26th Recology will be accepting Styrofoam at the Depot. Open hours run 8am – 5pm, 6 days a week.

Recology will have an employee there to help monitor as only acceptable items will be taken. We want this to work and it’s a learning curve for all of us.  Please be patient and know that the program will be expanding.

First, the collection area will NOT be inside the Depot Building. Go into that parking lot, but turn left and drive past the building and through the yellow gate.  There you will be directed to the right location.

Second, there is a one-cubic-yard daily limit per person. This is about the maximum amount allowed.

696-03396326

This is too much!!! Don’t bring this amount all at once please. too much

Finally, for this first phase, only some  Styrofoam blocks of that rigid stuff you receive in boxes to protect the contents will be accepted. Recology will be adding more items as they work out any kinks in the collection process. We will share this information as quickly as possible.

Not yet
Not yet

Zero Waste McMinnville volunteers will be on hand on December 26th to help direct people to the collection area which is just past the depot. Go through the yellow gates and join the party!!!

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.