RE-USE: Plastic bags

The City of McMinnville has recently passed an ordinance that will phase in a restriction of plastic shopping bags at the check out. Starting September 1, remember to bring your reusable totes to load your groceries from the major supermarkets. Small shops will continue to have plastic bags for a while longer.

If you are anything like me, you have a stash, perhaps under your sink like I do. 

Some people argued against banning these thin plastic bags because they use them for picking up the piles their dogs make while out walking. Thanks to them for keeping our streets and sidewalk clear, but chances are the supply will not dry up.  Since there is a definite problem with plastic in our landfills and oceans, each of us needs to make an effort to alter our ways.

The other bags that get heavy use in my life are the various sizes of zipper-close heavier plastic bags. Now, unless the bags gets super yucky, I wash it and re-use it. 

The idea of RE-USE is one of the main concepts to reduce garbage going to the landfill, and that is where plastic bags end up, so to delay that time is preferable.

Here are some concepts for using those bags in other ways:

  • Cut one corner off a plastic bag to create a makeshift funnel. This trick also works to make a DIY piping bag!  I use sandwich baggies to drizzle melted chocolate on cookies or pipe a blob of frosting on a cake in an effort to be decorative.
  • Peel vegetables into a plastic bag to easily transport peels to your compost bin. (A better use for those veggie peels would be to keep a gallon ziplock bag in the freezer, fill it as you prep veggies. When you have a full bag you can make a delicious vegetable broth which can be used for a base for a soup or other cooking. Let me know if you want more specific directions.)
  • Put packages of meat on a plastic bag in the refrigerator when defrosting to keep juices from going all over the place.
  • Put your tablet or phone in a zipper top plastic bag when you want to read in the bath room. You know you don’t want to spend good money replacing that phone! 
  • You can also cover small pots with plastic bags to create a mini greenhouse and help plants sprout. My mom used to do this over 50 years ago when we would leave for a 2-4 week camping trip. When we got home, the plants looked great!
  • Carry a grocery sack with you as you weed your garden to corral weeds before throwing them away or in your compost bin.
  • Tie a grocery sack to your lawn mower to store litter, dog toys, pine cones etc. as you mow the lawn.
  • When mailing packages, save money on bubble wrap by using plastic bags as padding. Old paper grocery sacks are also great padding! Use this trick when packing away breakable Christmas ornaments as well.
  • Save grocery sacks to use at your next yard sale. (We’ll talk about reuse of other items in another blog, but “one man’s trash is another man’s  treasure” is a good motto.)
  • Create a scented sachet by putting a few cotton balls in a plastic bag and adding a few drops of your favorite essential oil. Poke some holes in the bag and put it in your dresser drawer
  • Keep a plastic baggie in your car’s glove compartment in order to stash important receipts or other items during a trip. Having another one for tissues and other trash helps keep the car tidy also.  Maybe several more if you have a traveler who is prone to motion sickness.
  • On vacation, bring along an extra plastic bag to store dirty clothes. Bring a second bag for wet bathing suits when you have to pack before they are dry. Packing shoes in bags keeps the clothes cleaner.
  • Bring a plastic sack to an outdoor show or festival or when you go tot eh coast or a hike. Sometimes the organizers don’t plan enough trash receptacles or removal during the event and the landscape tends to get disgusting with garbage people leave behind. Be responsible and  come with a plastic grocery bag to take your recyclables, compostibles and trash home at the end of the event.
  • During winter, if you park outside, cover your mirrors and windshield with plastic bags to eliminate any scraping of ice in the morning.

If you are not in the habit of alternative reusing, then bring your bags back to the grocery store to pack your groceries again. Also, some of the supermarkets have containers accepting the single-use bags for recycling.  Currently, McMinnville’s recycling program does NOT take these bags, but there is a collection container at the transfer station as well. 

And finally, if you are artistic, there are ways you can use these plastic bags in projects.

Image result for reuse for plastic bags

Woven into trash cans Image result for reuse for plastic bags

Woven into a reusable tote! Now that is a win win! Image result for reuse for plastic bags

The list goes on….and on, limited only by creativity. The point is STOP PUTTING THESE BAGS IN YOUR TRASH!!!

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Wineries, Move Over-There’s a New Tourist Destination in Town!

It seems to be a truism: people who have lived in a place for a long time may know their favorite restaurant, but they often are so set in their routine that they do NOT know all the new hot places to go see! My dad, who grew up in Brooklyn, loved taking us kids into New York City because he said he got to play tourist.  And I know,  even after living in the Hartford Connecticut area for over 14 years, I only visited the Mark Twain house when I returned with a carload of high school students on a college tour trip.

Still, you may be surprised that I bring out-of-town visitors to our transfer station at Recology when they come to see Oregon.

Let’s start with the premise that here until recently, and in most places in the United States even now, curbside collection of recycling is not typical. Trash, yes.  Mingled recycling, rare. Curbside collection of glass and yard waste, even more rare.

So, for the curious, checking out where that stuff goes and what they do with it is a normal tease.  For those who haven’t yet begun to think about the trash they generate, it is an eye-opener.

So, let’s visit Recology (1850 NE Lafayette Avenue, McMinnville) and see just what they do with what we give them.

When the truck comes today to pick up my mingled recyclables, they will be getting some cardboard, a bunch of junkmail, and a plastic jar I have no need to reuse. The truck will load up on its route and make it back to the transfer station by late morning, dump, and then head back out for another truckload. 

Inside the building, a forklift operator loads the mixed stuff on to a conveyor to a machine which compresses and bails it all. These bails are stacked and then sent off to a company that purchases our recyclables. That party is the one who sorts. Now, we could get more if we sorted locally, but the cost to process would probably be higher than the current system.

Some sorting is possible because of the collection bin system in the public portion of the center. 

Glass, for example, is sorted by color.  If you carry your glass to the transfer station you get directed to sort by color. 

The curbside collection is mingled, however. Trucks dump glass outside in a contained space for sorting before sending on to the glass buyers.  Okay, check out the beer (brown) drinkers versus red wine (clear) and white wine (green) drinkers.

Electronics are also collected inside, then moved and wrapped (the numbers indicate the weight)  and stored until a truckload is gained.  There are small amounts of gold and heavy metals that are pulled out; the gold for value, the heavy metals for safer disposal.  

 

 

 

 

Other items are also segregated and baled. Some, like cardboard,  are sold directly from McMinnville.

 

 

 

Some, like single use flimsy plastic sheeting,  have to be moved to another transfer station to be added to their collection.  Thin, single use plastic bags, similar to the ones used at grocery stores, are a huge problem.  Not only do they have few downstream uses, they typically end up littering our roadways and waterways, and then into the oceans.  McMinnville’s decision to stop permitting these bags to be used  will help improve our environment. As the Recology sign above indicates, REDUCE is one aspect we all need to practice.  If we don’t use a problematic item, we don’t need to worry about how to deal with it at the end of its usefulness.

 

 

 

 

There are other items that are collected inside the transfer station and then sorted and stored until the volume is enough to transfer. Things like motor oil and antifreeze are stored in bins most of us consider more useful for storing pre-bottled beverages.

People who do not pay for curbside trash or recycling pick-up may bring those items to the transfer station.  They are charged drop rates similar to the dump, but again, these items at the transfer station are recycled and so, there is an environmental advantage to this drop site. 

Before curbside pick-up was started last fall, many people had gotten used to bringing yard debris to the Greenlands site adjacent to the transfer station. Also part of the Recology organization, Greenlands accepts all kinds of natural items that can be used and reused.

For example, the curbside yard waste pick-up also permits raw vegetables and fruits. In other words, as you are preparing your supper, scraps not used for eating can be used for compost. Cooked food is NOT permitted. The mulch operation at Greenlands is pretty amazing with rows and rows of vegetable matter maturing.  If you need muclch for your home garden, consider buying some to be delivered from Greenlands instead of buying it in plastic (ugh) bags at the home centers or nurseries. 

So, if you haven’t already been to Recology,  go check it out.  You’ll be amazed at the things they take which will make you a more responsible person sorting for recycling instead of landfill! And you can raise the awareness of people who come to visit from areas where there is no similar recycling system to learn and hopefully get something started where they live!

Now what do I do with it?

The pause in rain and the appearance of the sun are sure signs that outdoor activities are soon to follow.  Here in McMinnville, for example, the downtown Farmers’ Market begins Thursday May 18. It will have new hours, noon-6:00, that will make it convenient for people to pop over on their lunch hour to shop AND grab lunch. Because of construction on 2nd Street, it will relocate to Cowls between 2nd and 1st and also in the parking lot behind City Hall.

May 18th is also the start of the UFO Fest with the parade on Saturday the 20th at 2pm. On that day alone there will be about 20,000 people in downtown Mac!

And people mean……among other things, trash.  Lots of trash.

Before Zero Waste McMinnville started their effort to help divert garbage from the landfill, that event itself resulted in almost a ton of garbage at the landfill. Two years ago over 60% was diverted and last year over 75% was diverted away from the landfill!

What does that mean? It means that with a bit of help learning what can be recycled and what can be composted, only a small portion of the trash ended up in the landfill! Way to go!!!

We have been using  ClearStream stations on loan from Yamhill County Solid Waste Advisor Sherrie Mathison, and have been using them since 2015. Thanks to Sherrie for her support!   Our new ClearStream recycling stations were purchased with grant funding we received from the CAN’d Aid Foundation through their Crush It Crusade recycling program. Our original equipment, purchased in 2015, was also funded by CAN’D Aid, and we are very grateful for their support of our work.

Picture yourself at the UFO parade.

    

  

 You get something to eat and then look for a place to stash the trash. What goes where?  It’s simple!!
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Items that can be recycled go here!
     
 Items that can be composted to help enrich the soil go here!
  
And the rest is trash and ends up in the landfill.
This is great!! Everyone is learning how to reduce their trash and our City will be greener!  We’ll be there to help and if you would like to join the team, we need volunteers for a few hours at each event. Thanks!