Beyond curbside recycling (Part 1)
Those of us who live inside the city limits have the option to pay for basic disposal services which include trash, recycle and yard debris. The range of materials we eventually use up, wear out, outgrow or grow tired of have to go somewhere.
Seasonally, or even more frequently, it is proactively wise to stay aware of what you are bringing into your life to prevent being buried by the "stuff’ you could accumulate. Staying attuned with your stuff also provides a barometer to help decide what to say “yes” or “no” to. Going through closets, cabinets, and other storage zones keeps you connected with what you have. The good news is when you discover items in decent shape that have not been used or worn in the last year provides a chance to find them a new home.
If you aren’t in the mood for a yard sale or hosting a "give away" party, consider boxing up these items and redistributing them other places where they can be utilized. Just because you are finished with these items does not mean they are ready for a dead end at the landfill. If you need help going through this process you can hire a professional organizer to assist. Dumping everything in the trash is not illegal (yet). It is certainly easiest to take everything and deposit it in one container but that option leads to the landfill.
Since the yard debris, recycle and trash options are limited, today’s article will provide some directions for next steps for unwanted stuff. Sending usable items to the landfill is an avoidable waste every way you slice it — let’s look at "beyond curbside" options for our region.
As you have heard before in this column, "stuff" that still has life left in it does not deserve the landfill fate and, with a little effort on our parts, this can be avoided (or at least postponed) in most situations. There are numerous local options that allow these items to continue cycling until the life in them is completely used up. Sometimes, by spending a little more and purchasing durable products, the lifespan can expand exponentially. It is true that it requires an extra step or two on our part to research and find a new avenue to stretch the value of materials when we are done with them.
Single use (disposable) items tend to be more costly in the long run without even figuring in the environmental impacts. For example, for every purchase of bottled water, the Oregon bottle bill requires that you are charged a dime (this bill is intended to reduce littering and encourage recycling). The dime is redeemed only when returned to a store or redemption center. The rampant purchasing of bottled water is an unnecessary expense considering the excellent quality of our tap water (nine times out of 10 — at least in the Northwest — the quality of tap water trumps bottled water). Bottled water is not regulated as strictly as municipal water and this is why in Southern Oregon drinking from the tap an excellent use and preservation of our resources.
Another example is a vacuum cleaner that operates without disposable bags. Newer models allow for filling, emptying and reusing for the life of the appliance.
The Jackson County Re-Directory (formerly SMARTworks and currently called Rogue Re-Directory) debuted in 2006 and went through several updates over the years. There are plans to bring the directory up to speed in 2018. It has been a wonderful resource with an exhaustive list from A-Y for reducing, re-using, repairing, renting and then recycling options “beyond curbside.” It offers an excellent starting point. Keep in mind that availability is constantly changing and calling ahead is recommended to confirm that the business or organization continues to accept the listed materials. The opportunities do not start and stop here. This list is a beginning. I am certain there are even more opportunities out there. To take a look at this directory go to: rogueredirectory.org or jacksoncounty.org.
In the next WasteNot article I will highlight some of the most commonly requested, “beyond curbside” options.
—Risa Buck has served on the Ashland Conservation Commission and in waste prevention education for more than a decade. You may reach her through email@example.com. Find past WasteNot columns online at bit.ly/rbwastenot.