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.

Composting 201: Hands-On Fun

The time has come to get your hands a bit dirty. Your kids will encourage you and then you will probably discover what so many have before you: there is something very soothing about playing in the garden, growing things.

Compostpalooza is the annual celebration of turning unused portions of uncooked vegetables and fruit and a few other household waste items into a rich food for your garden.

Few things in life can be as rewarding as a free item that gives YOU a benefit.  We at Zero Waste McMinnville want to help you learn about one of the basic tools you have at your disposal.

Right now you might actually be throwing away, those scraps of lettuce and carrots and whatever you have when you make a salad. Those stem ends of tomatoes, of zucchini, of eggplant. The left over coffee grounds. The tea bags or tea leaves. The hair that you find in your brush. The lint in your dryer. 

Time to stop that. First of all, it can be collected curbside by Recology in their Yard waste pick up.  The Greenlands section of Recology makes compost from these scraps and more. Rich compost you can purchase to be delivered to your property for your gardens. 

Or, you can make your own.  That’s what we want to help you learn to do.

And there will be a petting zoo also. Have the kids bring you to the Community Gardens site at 325 NE Burnett Road, just off Baker Road at the north end of McMinnville Saturday June 17 from 10am to 2pm. 

Bag It Better

by Beth Dell                                                                                                                                                      published in The McMinnville News Register, June 2, 2017

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!!!

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!!
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!

May 20 Put it on Your Calendar!

The song goes….Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got til its gone…..

Hazardous Waste…….we all have some. Chemicals that are not allowed in the regular trash because of the hazards they present to the landfill and yes, the garbage truck itself,

How do you know if a  product is hazardous?

Always read the product labels. Signal words to look for on the label are DANGER, POISON, WARNING, or CAUTION. Products are considered hazardous if they have one or more of the following properties:

  • Flammable / combustible – can be easily set on fire
  • Explosive / reactive – can detonate or explode through exposure to heat, sudden shock, pressure, or incompatible substances
  • Corrosive – chemical action can burn or destroy living tissues or other materials when brought in contact
  • Toxic – capable of causing injury or death through ingestion, inhalation, or skin absorption

Collections of hazardous waste are usually twice a year.  The collections alternate between Newberg and McMinnville so people can use the opportunity to clean out their household of these items.   The next household hazardous waste collection event will be held Saturday, May 20, 2017 from 9am to 1pm at the Newberg Transfer Station (2904 S. Wynooski Street).

The Yamhill County Commission, recognizing that the collections have not been widely used, are thinking of discontinuing the service.

This is the time to make sure you get your garage or basement or storage building cleared out.  And if the activity is good, then the service may remain. It’s really up to you.

Image result for household hazardous waste list

So, what is eligible?

  • Paint thinners, mineral spirits, solvents
  • Aerosol paints (spray cans)
  • Auto and marine paints
  • Art and craft paints
  • Caulk, epoxies, glues, adhesives
  • Paint additives, colorants, tints, resins
  • Wood preservatives, (containing pesticides)
  • Roof patch & repair
  • Tar and bitumen-based products
  • 2-component coatings
  • Deck cleaners
  • Traffic and road marking paints
  • Industrial maintenance coatings
  • Original equipment manufacturer paints and finishesImage result for household hazardous waste list


Many people think to bring regular indoor or outdoor paint but here we are fortunate that both The Restore in McMinnville,  Parr Lumber in Newberg and the Sherwin Williams stores in both towns accept cans of used paint all year long for recycling.  By dropping your indoor paint at one of these locations you will also avoid waiting in a line!  These sites will accept:
  • Interior and exterior architectural paints: latex, acrylic, water-based, alkyd, oil-based, enamel (including textured coatings)
  • Deck coatings, floor paints (including elastomeric)
  • Primers, sealers, under coaters
  • Stains
  • Shellacs, lacquers, varnishes, urethanes, (single component)
  • Waterproofing concrete/masonry/wood sealers and repellents (not tar or bitumen-based)
  • Metal coatings, rust preventatives
  • Field and lawn paints

The regularly scheduled household hazardous waste collection for McMinnville is usually held in the Fall.  If the County decides to eliminate the collection or if you have something you want to get rid of at another time of the year there are two Permanent Household Hazardous Waste Collection locations:

Salem: 3250 Deer Park Drive – open Every Thursday and
the First Saturday each month from 9am to 3pm
FREE to Yamhill County RESIDENTS
Oregon City: 2001 Washington Street – open Monday thru Saturday from
9am to 4pm – $5.00 charge for up to 32 gal

Changing Old Habits

Oh boy, you don’t need to tell me how hard it is to change old habits.  Each year, for example, I remind myself if I could just stick to that diet for ONE year I would manage to lose the excess I’ve been carrying around for decades. But……well, you know the rest of the story.

So, when do I find myself able to make changes? Maybe it’s similar for you. I believe when the change is not that large, it solves a problem, AND it provides an immediate “feel good” result.

Anyone older than 30 can remember going to the grocery store and there were no such thing as plastic shopping bags. Our purchases were piled into brown kraft paper bags. Remember using them for covering books each school year?  Those are pretty sturdy and last a long time.

Meanwhile, I noticed on my first trip overseas in 1972 and then again in 1981 that paper was rarely used, but plastic bags were the thing. Decorated with logos of the shops, with sturdy handles, these heavy plastic bags also could be reused and reused.

However, here in the United States, the chosen option was thinner plastic that is considered a single-use item but might be able to be reused a couple of times. Maybe more for trash collection (just the right size for those bathroom garbage cans)and also appreciated by dog owners who were responsible and picked up the intended droppings of the constitutional stroll.

These plastic bags most often are tossed into the garbage and then head to the landfill. Most end up buried, to stay there to amuse archaeologists 500-1000 years from now.  Others blow around, end up in waterways and then clogging up sea animals’ digestive systems when mistaken for jellyfish or other food.  I wrote about how we are Swimming in Plastic last week.

So, we have a need to change our ways, and here in McMinnville the time is coming. September 1 marks the date when these thin single-use plastic bags will no longer be available at the major supermarkets and stores in town as well as at any event inside the city limits.  McMinnville joins a small but growing community of other cities in Oregon and around the nation where consumers have converted to re-usable bags.

One of the first events where you can obtain a free cloth re-usable tote is on Earth Day, this Saturday. A recycling event will be held at Cascade Steel’s Rolling Mill from 10-2.  You can bring the plastic bags you’ve collected in that drawer or under the kitchen sink and trade them in for a cloth tote. 

There will be other chances to pick up bags, but yard sales are also a place where they may sell for as little as 10 cents. Some stores, like Roth’s, will offer bags for sale. The McMinnville downtown farmers’ market also has bags for sale.

So, when I learned about this coming restriction I really had no issue. We’ve been using cloth totes just about the whole time we’ve lived here.  I’ve learned to immediately hang the totes on the doorknob after I unpack the groceries so I can take them out to the car the next time I go.  Some bags even fold up into their own pocket which permits them to be put into purses.

I got to thinking about the other times I use thin plastic. The bags that are located in the bulk section as well as the produce section will continue to be available. But the problem still exists with these…they are even thinner so don’t get much reuse and again, they will head to the landfill.

I started searching the Internet for alternatives that would be relatively inexpensive and offer multiple re-use and found-and purchased- one product for use in the stores and another to use instead of plastic wrap at home.

Mesh bags are great for collecting produce and bulk products that are not wet. I purchased a set of nine bags that were on sale for $11.97 on amazon.com. Cleaning is easy- you can just drop them into the wash.  I asked the checker on a day that the supermarket was not busy to see what the tare weight was for the largest and it was 0.03 ounce, so may add a penny to the sale. Roth’s will be selling this kinds of bags and will have the tare weight marked. 

Trying to replace the plastic wrap at home has some choices above and beyond plastic or glass containers. I have seen little plastic circles that almost look like something we used to put on the top of soda cans to try to keep the fizz in if we didn’t drink it all.  Made of BPA-free silicone, these caps cover the cut ends of produce, blocking air.  I found a set of four for $11.95 on amazon.com.

Additionally, moving away from plastic,  I found Bee’s Wrap. Made in Vermont, this organic cotton comes in several sizes and is permeated with beeswax. It seals with the heat from your hands. I found a set of three for $19. They also have a sandwich wrap with a tie string to keep it sealed.





These are just a few options that are available to take the place of plastic in the lives of our food. We can do this change and it really won’t be that hard. Now, if anyone has any great ideas how I can magically lose weight this easily, please let me know!


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.

First Choice: Stop Using. Second Choice: Recycling Coming

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.


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.