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Beyond curbside recycling (Part 2)

Since we can’t follow Judy Garland’s refrain and send our unwanted stuff “somewhere over the rainbow,” it’s gotta go somewhere, and although the landfill is the most convenient choice, when we care about avoiding needless waste and conserving resources, the landfill is the last choice for most things and the best choice for a few.

Part 2 of “Beyond Curbside” will provide resource options for some popular requests to divert materials and avoid landfilling good stuff.

Some examples of when the landfill might be a good choice includes plastics that can’t be recycled where we live without contaminating the rest of the recycle stream like: lids, uncleaned or uncleanable plastic wrappers and plastic, paper that covered fish, meat, dairy or is soiled. Be aware of the so called "compostable," plant-based materials that lack a facility (if you live in Southern Oregon) that accepts them as anything but trash. These "green-washing" products often cost a bit more, but don’t be fooled. You are paying for the “feel good” that exists in your mind.

If you are purchasing a product that may contaminate recycling or you know that you will send it to the landfill, it might not be the best product to choose. Avoiding these single-use disposables in the first place can’t be beat! Other trash-worthy items in Southern Oregon include aseptics, milk cartons, paper cups, plates, plastic cups, straws or utensils and food that cannot be safely composted at your home. Oh, did I mention lids as a perfect candidate for the landfill?

It’s still true that it’s only trash if that’s how you treat it. Consider taking an extra step toward maximizing the value in something you already have. Consumptive Justice is a term (I just made up) that strives to maximize the value in the resources we already have. It doesn’t mean that just because you bought it or were given it that you have to keep it forever. Sometimes we buy the wrong thing. That’s OK. It’s what we do with it that counts. If it’s not being utilized then take the challenge to re-route, re-gift or re-purpose it. One person’s discard is another persons’ treasure. There is no shame in that.

I hope you had a chance to check out the A-Y Re-Directory list online at rogueredirectory.com or jacksoncountyor.org/Departments/Solid-Waste/Recycling-Options.

For other ways to divert materials for re-use in Ashland, a popular choice for clothing and household items is Goodwill. Don’t forget about the Hospice Boutique, Dunn House Shelter or Maslow Project to name a few. The FreeBox at the recycle center is sporadically open for clothes and shoe drop off. Building supplies can be dropped at Habitat for Humanity Restore in Medford.

If you have an abundance of edibles from your garden or pantry consider Uncle Food’s Diner, Ashland Emergency Food Bank or Food Angels. Towels and blankets for animals are appreciated at the Jackson County Animal Shelter.

If you have books, consider donating them to the recently re-opened Rogue Valley Metaphysical Library (phone 541-552-9119).

Prescription drugs never go in trash, toilet or disposal. Proper disposal is to drop them off at the Ashland or Talent police departments.

One recycling location that accepts a mixture of beyond-curbside options is the Valley View Transfer Station. Locals may drive out to 3001 Valley View Road to drop off computers, electronics, compact fluorescents, CFL’s and fluorescent tubes for a fee (no incandescents), and deep-cycle batteries (not alkaline household batteries). Take alkaline household batteries to Ashland Hardware store for a fee. They will recycle rechargable batteries for free.

Plastic bags can be taken to the recycle center on Water Street and placed in special bags against the metal fence.

Take your leftover vegetable cooking oil to Rogue BioFuels at Paradise Supply on Highway 99.

This is not an exhaustive list. It is intended to get you going and see that alternative reduce, re-use and then recycle options exist in Southern Oregon requiring a little extra effort from you.

Together we can each make a difference and it adds up. Thanks for what you do every day to re-think and re-organize to become more efficient and waste not, more often.

—Risa Buck has served on the Ashland Conservation Commission and in waste prevention education for more than a decade. You may reach her through betling@dailytidings.com. Find past WasteNot columns online at bit.ly/rbwastenot.