What Do We Throw Away?

Whether or not you believe that people have had any effect on the climate, we know choices in producing electricity, for example, has an effect on the environment. I often pose to people who say they do not believe climate change is anything more than a natural cycle why cleaning up the environment is still not a good move. I am often met with silence.  People do not like to admit they need to have SOME personal responsibility for keeping the earth a healthy place to live.

If each of us takes care of our own actions we can see a tremendous improvement in the environmental health of our immediate area as well as the regions downstream from McMinnville.

With the dedicated effort of a small group of volunteers, Zero Waste McMinnville has been providing waste disposal systems and help at many of McMinnville’s events, hoping  to help educate a huge portion of the area’s population on how to sort.  So, after two full years, how is that going?

Our goal is to make McMinnville the first city in Oregon to divert 90% of our waste from the landfill by 2024.

Currently our household and business overall diversion rate is close to 50%.  Better than before but not nearly where we could be.






With pictures on the trash bins to help people identify what goes where and other events where there is actually someone standing at the bins to help with the sort, it improves dramatically.

Here are the rates of events in 2016 where Zero Waste McMinnville helped sort.

What this shows is that when we lead, you can follow. When someone tells us to put our paper plate in the compost collection, we can do it. We might also put it into the commingled recycling. That’s ok.

But what do we do at home? Or in the car?  When we pull through the fast food or coffee kiosk and enjoy our purchases, what do we do with the trash? Do we just dump it all into our trash barrel going to the landfill?  That is NOT ok.

lemon, banana peel, coffee grounds and newspaper

At my home in our kitchen we have 3 collection bins. A small container sits on the counter near the sink so when we are preparing fruit, vegetables or herbs for our dehydrator or for a meal, we can easily put the parts we do not plan to eat in the compost bin. We carry that out to a compost pile in our backyard as it fills, but you, if you do not have a compost pile in your yard, can use the “yard waste” collection by Recology.

On the floor tucked under the kitchen “desk” (used to hold the dehydrator), are two kitchen trash cans.  One gets filled with paper, hard plastic items, aluminum foil crunched up, and metal cans and lids, stomped on so the lids stay inside.

If you do not compost acceptable items they probably end up in the landfill, not the best place. As compost the nutrients that are part of these items go back into the soil, enriching it to help plants grow.  As trash in the landfill the least they do is take up space, making that landfill grow ever larger.  They end up decaying over time but not as effectively as they would in a compost collection and they never help provide nutrition to the soil for the garden.

If you do not recycle actively, the items that can be collected and sold to companies that use the material will probably end up in the landfill, a horrible place for them. Not only do plastics “never” decay, they do emit chemical toxins into the ground water. Also, plastics, because they are generally light weight,  sometimes escape by being blown by the wind and end up in the river and on to the ocean. It is not an exaggeration to say that many of the fish caught off our coasts and whales who have been beached and died have stomachs full of plastic.

This is not nature. This is human activity.

And you, here in McMinnville can help make an amazing difference. Learn to sort. Grab those photos above that show what is permitted in each bin and print them out. Post them in your kitchen and buy another trash can and covered bin to start more actively separating your own household trash. If you are reading this you have the intellectual capability to sort your trash. Really.


4 thoughts on “What Do We Throw Away?

  1. Not to mention that knowing we are doing the best for our “home planet” makes us feel proud and accomplished. Good feelings to generate I think


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