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Downtown baskets offer incentive to recycling

It's not easy to collect recycling in public places. Three years ago, Ashland began expanding bottle and can collection baskets downtown after the success Ashland Parks and Recreation has had with its recycling efforts.

Even as a small city with fewer resources than larger urban areas, Ashland has created a modest and successful pilot program at minimal cost. Thanks to the generosity of some of our downtown businesses, we are continuing to gradually grow the number of city trash cans with baskets attached.

The Ashland Conservation Commission has been able to launch the pilot by adding baskets to some downtown public trash cans. The sole purpose of these baskets is to provide a convenient place to drop bottles and cans once the drink has been consumed and the lid is placed in the trash. Participating businesses check them regularly for contamination. The redeemable bottles and cans placed in the baskets are for the taking, and it seems to be working great!

Thanks to the Oregon Bottle Bill, each can and bottle has a value of 10 cents, which is added to the cost of each drink. When these items are tossed in the trash or placed in recycling the dime is forfeited. The baskets offer a convenient and effective way for specialized “public” recycling. When any “recycling” collection container is unmonitored, (which means there is no person standing there), nor a place (material recovery facility) to sort through and remove contamination, it too often ends up creating greater amounts of waste and expense.

The thinking behind collecting only redeemables (deposit containers) is that they have a monetary value which incentivises proper disposal. The Oregon Bottle Bill dates back to the 1970s. It was an effort to reduce littering. When bottles and cans failed to meet the 80 percent recovery rate set by the state, the deposit was doubled from a nickel to a dime in 2017. According to the Oregon Beverage and Recycling Cooperative (OBRC), in 2018, 90 percent of the beverage containers with a 10 cent deposit were redeemed. This marks a 64% improvement in just a couple of years. I wonder whether expanding the use of deposits on other containers could help us improve our recycling rates with other consumables.

One of the great things about the basket is that it is in a see-through shallow container, and the contents are visible and easily accessed (no digging through) which encourages the “right stuff” going in, which increases our success. Recycling receptacles require constant attention and often sorting to insure a clean stream. If you have yet to notice the baskets downtown or in other areas, please look out for them. Please check out the names of the sponsoring businesses that have volunteered to help our town accomplish some waste prevention. Their name can be found on each basket sign on the lower left side.

As of March 2019, (19) baskets have been adopted by the following businesses:Full Circle Real Estate, Greenleaf Restaurant, Sunday Afternoons, Jackson County Restaurant Alliance (2 baskets), Ashland Conservation Commission, Flip, Mix, Ashland Community Development and Engineering Services, Mountain Provisions, Standing Stone Brewing Company (2 baskets), Wells Fargo, Shepherd’s Dream, Summit & Fields, Bug A Boo and (3) are in foster care.

These containers are charged a 10 cent deposit at point of purchase: plastic water bottles, beer, soda, juice smoothies, aloe vera juice, fruit and vegetable juice, energy and sport drinks, coffee/tea, coconut water, non-alcohol wine, drinking vinegar, hard cider, marijuana beverages, muscle milk, protein shakes, non-alcoholic kombucha and some cocktail mixers. More details are available at oregon.gov/olcc/pages/bottle_bill.aspx#2018_Expansion.

If you are a business or organization interested in adopting a basket to attach to your public trash can, contact Stu Green, City of Ashland, Climate and Energy Analyst at stu.green@ashland.or.us.

This program is another example of how the people can create simple, cost-effective measures to reduce waste and at the same time provide opportunities for people who can benefit. Regular people can make a difference. Next time you are downtown, be sure and appreciate these businesses for helping us do a little more. Way to go Ashland and a super sized thank you to these local businesses!

Risa Buck has served on the Ashland Conservation Commission and in waste prevention education for more than a dozen years. Find past WasteNot columns online at dailytidings.com/lifestyle/wastenot.

Photo by Risa BuckThree years ago, Ashland began expanding bottle and can collection baskets downtown after the success Ashland Parks and Recreation has had with its recycling efforts.