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Borrow a plate, save the planet

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Inspired by the ghastly sight of Dumpsters overflowing with plastic dinnerware after weddings, meetings, concerts and parties, two Ashland Master Recyclers have started a “dish library” where, for free, you can pick up full dinner place settings (they have 100), as long as you return them all washed and ready to loan again.

Just go to the Southern Oregon Master Recyclers in Action website (SOMRA.org) and describe your gig. A volunteer will call you back and let you know whether your event can be accommodated. If so, you get a code to enter their tiny cottage at the Ashland Recycling Center on Water Street and grab whatever settings of near-indestructible Corelle ware, napkins, table cloths, wine or champagne glasses you need. When done, return the washed dinnerware back to the cottage.

Master Recyclers Sharon Anderson and Bob Altaras got the idea from a lone recycling warrior, Cheryl Boerger of Mount Shasta, founder of “Plates for People and the Planet.” They visited her and fell in love with the idea of doing something on their own initiative — no grants by city councils involved — and thus helping slow the planet-choking tide of plastic, single-use junk.

“It feels good. It’s an extension of the sharing economy we’re moving into, like the co-op housing. We’re sharing plates and forks,” says Altaras. “It makes sense to share tools.”

With a smile, he says they decided to call it LMAP (Lend Me a Plate). Right now, it’s for Ashland and Talent residents.

“So, if you’re having an event, you get to save some money, reduce the use of non-disposable resources and you are being, as we say, reduce-able and reusable,” Altaras says.

Of course, it does take money to make LMAP run and they seem confident cash will flow in as they need to buy new hardware.

Altaras and Anderson, graduates of the basic Jackson County Master Recycler program, started the SOMRA offshoot, which performs commercial and residential waste reduction audits. Their first customer was the Ashland Independent Film Festival.

LMAP, they believe, is a model for the future, where the objective is to work together for a sustainable world, with no one getting awards for it. They note that their role model, Boerger, kept a quarter-million disposable things out of landfills in her first five years and won the ETown Achievement Award for Community Service.

Altaras and Anderson are on that same path, but not shooting for awards. They need volunteers (one covers the shed for a month) and, right now, they need $250 for 100 stainless steel cups.

For more information or to contact SOMRA, visit SOMRA.org.

John Darling is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.

Bob Altura s & Sharon Anderson explain Lend_Me-A-PlateThumbnail
Photo by Denise BarattaBob Altaras and Sharon Anderson are helping to create the Lend Me A Plate program, allowing people to borrow place settings instead of using disposable products.