5 quick tips: how to reduce waste during construction

The EPA estimates that 548 million tons of construction and demolition (C/D) debris (concrete, asphalt, steel, wood products, drywall, brick and clay tile, etc) was generated in the U.S. in 2015 alone — more than twice the amount of generated municipal solid waste. The reduction, reuse, and recycling of C/D can be accomplished through deconstruction and reclamation. Keeping the materials in the loop is an important part of reducing waste in Deschutes County.

During this year’s Green Tour you can catch a panel discussion all about rethinking construction waste. We will hear from homeowners who are salvaging materials, getting creative (like stenciling their old tile floors to give them a whole new modern look!), and utilitizing great finds from the Restore. We’ll be joined by the Habitat for Humanity Restore too so we can learn what types of materials can be salvaged and donated to be reused in the community. On the new construction side, we’ll hear from two builders who are reducing the their waste footprints with panelized designs.

Register Here

Did you know: 25% or more of Deschutes County’s Knott Landfill consists of construction and demolition waste?

This seems daunting, but there are simple ways to reduce this number. Are you thinking about a remodeling or construction project? Here are some ways to rethink construction waste:

Are you remodeling? Take the time to deconstruct.

  1. Getting rid of old kitchen cabinets? Call the ReStore’s reclamation services. They will remove the old ones out for you and then take the ReStore where someone else can buy them. Keep it in the loop!
  2. If you’re getting rid of appliances that still work, try to sell them or donate them.
  3. Gently remove old wood and trim rather than using the sledgehammer. Satisfaction will come from passing materials on and you can go hit the punching bag at the gym to get your energy out!

Set up a recycling station at the construction site.

  1. Get a good idea of what you will need: what materials on site will be good for donation? What different recycling streams can you contribute to?
  2. Outline a recycling area on the construction site.
  3. Obtain containers for each donatable and recyclable.
  4. Make sure you have clear signs for each area!
  5. Educate everyone on site so folks know what goes where.

Kor community land trust models this well. Check out their recycling station below. If you want to see it in person, you can sign up for an in-person tour for Saturday, September 26 through our annual Green Tour event!

When designing your new look, take the following into consideration:

  1.  Use non-toxic options like natural flooring and low or no VOC paints.
  2. Can you find the building material you need at your local ReStore?
  3. Choose classic designs and finishes that work well over time rather than the trendy new look. (Green shag carpet, anyone?)

Time to paint!?

  1. Try a sample before you commit.
  2. Buy only what you need! Try a paint calculator.
  3. Only need a little paint? Can you find a good color at the ReStore?
  4. Don’t toss old paint! Recycle it: donate usable paint, all else take it to Knott Landfill for proper disposal.

Get inspired by other people’s reuse ideas:

Check out the Porter bathroom from the 2020 Green Tour! In this segment, Michelle talks about redoing surfaces instead of trashing good materials in order to update a dated space. Watch the whole video here.

Do you have any fun reuse ideas?

Buckingham 4th Graders Visit Knott Landfill

(Pictured above: Our lovely Sustainability Educators having a little fun during the field trip!)

Earlier this month, 4th grade students from Buckingham Elementary took a field trip to Knott Landfill. As part of our EarthSmart program and partnership with Deschutes County Solid Waste, students are able to tour the very place where all of our waste and recycling goes and learn that nothing truly ever goes “away.”

There are three stations the students tour: the landfill hole, the recycling center, and the transfer station.

At the big hole, students are able to see just how big a space is needed to bury all of our trash. Some highlights are learning about and feeling what the landfill liners are like, asking questions about the methane flare, and watching the huge dump trucks pack down all the incoming trash.

At the recycling center, students learn from the expert, Rigo, about what can/cannot be recycled and why, and get to watch the compactor crush down all the commingling, which is an exciting event! They also learn how certain materials like electronics, paint, and oil can be recycled here, too.

Lastly, at the transfer station, students put on their detective hats and check out the types of materials folks are disposing. They learn that all items unloaded at the transfer station ultimately end up in the landfill. Students are the first ones to notice materials that could have been recycled, or even better, donated or reused over again instead of sending them right to the landfill. It’s quite a shock to watch the amount of things being unloaded here, especially in such a short amount of time.

Students from Mrs. Buckman’s class wrote responses to their landfill visit. When I returned to their classroom the next week, I was welcomed by their drawings and informative knowledge. Students shared what they learned, noticed, and want to share with their friends and family from their tour:

“We learned that the difference between a dump and a landfill is that a landfill has two liners so that the leachate doesn’t leak out and a dump does not have liners. We also learned that they burn methane gas in a big pipe. We noticed that a lot of people throw away recyclable items. We also noticed there was a lot of loose trash everywhere in the landfill. We want to tell our friends and family, “If you have any cooking oil or motor oil, recycle it here!” We also want to tell them to recycle any old electric devices.”

“We noticed that people were throwing away recyclable items and paying for them when they could have recycled them for free!”

“We noticed that there was a lot of garbage that was not in the right bins. That effects a lot of things and sometimes workers have to hand pick it out.”

“I learned that Knott Landfill will fill up in 9.5 years in 2029.”

Touring the landfill is an eye-opening experience for anyone. When students see it at this age, the hope is that they are aware of how these systems and processes work and want to make changes to decrease the amount of waste they create in the first place and to educate their friends and family on the importance of recycling right.

We love taking students to the landfill and have gotten so many requests from parents and adults in the community to tour the landfill as well, so we now host community landfill tours in the spring and fall! Be on the lookout for these free events on our website and through Rethink Waste Project.

If this sparked your interest and you thought, “Wow! I want to make sure I’m recycling right!” Here is a link to our great resource, The Rethink Waste Guide, to inform you.

Rethink Waste and The Environmental Center Won a Grant for 2020!

We are so excited to announce we are one of the lucky 2019 Oregon DEQ Materials Management grant recipients! You can read all about our project and see who else in Oregon won with their amazing project proposals here.

What are you going to do?

Our project will address recycling at multifamily complexes: increasing recovery and decreasing contamination in Deschutes County. We will work with Housing Works to support recycling infrastructure at four multifamily communities through pre- and post-implementation recycling bin audits. The audits will assess the level of contamination, what’s in the bin that shouldn’t be, and how much is recycled. The lessons learned from this project will be shared with partners working on these issues.

What’s special about the project?

An exciting component of this project will bring together two of our occasionally siloed Environmental Center programs. Rethink Waste will work closely with TEC’s Youth Education department who will provide two weeks of Eco-Hero camp to the youth of the associated Housing Works multifamily complexes.

Sounds like a lot of work. Are you going to need extra hands?

Yes! The grant funding will allow us to hire a dedicated campaign coordinator! Stay tuned for job description and hiring information.

Rethink Waste Over the Holidays

It is estimated that between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, more than 1 million tons of additional waste is generated EACH WEEK nationwide. And that doesn’t even take into account all the waste and resources used upstream and around the world to create all the new stuff people buy this time of year.

The good news is that if we pay a little more attention, we can reduce this number. Below are a few tips for you as you plan your holiday party or gift exchange.


  • Use pine boughs and clove covered oranges rather than single-use disposables.
  • Use LED light bulb strings to reduce energy costs.

Gift Giving

  • Consider a gift of experience instead of more stuff: concert tickets, a coupon for a hike, a trip to the Bend Rock Gym, a museum membership, or a community-supported agriculture share?
  • Get creative with your wrapping paper: use the funnies, an old Mt. Bachelor ski trails map, or a pillowcase with a reusable ribbon!
  • When purchasing material gifts, consider buying things with little to no or reusable packaging.
  • Consider making a donation to your favorite charity or non-profit in name of your gift recipient.
  • Buy local: Check out Locavore’s Holiday Gift Faire on December 7 or Craft-O at the Work House December 14 & 15!

Food Waste

  • 40% of the food that is grown to be eaten in the US ends up in the landfill. Be thoughtful with what you purchase: make a plan and stick to it!
  • Encourage your holiday party guests to bring leftovers containers.
  • Have a dish sign-up sheet to prevent having two dishes of mashed potatoes.
  • Compost all wasted food in your yard debris bin!

Post-Holiday Clean-Up

  • Don’t trash your holiday tree: either pay the Boy Scouts to pick it up, cut it up and put it in your yard debris bin, or take it to Deschutes Recycling at Knott Landfill. #Compost!
  • Do you have strings of holiday lights that no longer work? Don’t trash them – recycle them at Deschutes Recycling at Knott Landfill.
  • Know what is recyclable in Deschutes County and have a recycling station set up at your gift exchange.
    • Reuse: fabric ribbons, gift bags, wrapping paper
    • Recycle: wrapping paper (except foil), paperboard packaging, cardboard boxes, paper holiday cards, ripped and unusable gift bags
    • Trash: tissue paper, foil wrapping paper, plastic ribbon, plastic packaging, photo printed holiday cards

Learn more at RethinkWasteProject.org. Rethink Waste Project is an Environmental Center program.

Recycling might not be the answer by itself.

But it is part of the solution.

Recycling! A positive and negative buzz word these days. I think about it as being an alternative to throwing something away. But interestingly, we didn’t need recycling back in the 1940s because Americans were good at reuse. Remember the milkman? I don’t, actually, but I have heard about him.

So what made us switch from re-use to single-use?

I recently listened to a fascinating podcast about one particularly successful catalyst for making single-use nationally ubiquitous. After World War II, disposable items became cheaper and more available — and throwing things away was encouraged. Littering was normal and not looked down upon until a successful campaign in the 1950s by a partnership between the newly formed non-profit organization “Keep America Beautiful” and the AdCouncil.

If you want to hear the whole podcast “The Litter Myth” from Throughline, you can check it out here, but here is the gist:

  • Beverage companies became more successful by encouraging people to buy drinks in single-use disposable containers so they would toss the container and buy more.
  • Their efforts led to increased litter in public areas and along roadways. Littering was commonplace and not looked down upon. This scene of the Draper family picnic from Mad Men shows it well, despite being technically fictional!
  • Soon, litter became so common that people started to see it as a problem — especially when cows would eat grass littered with broken glass and die of internal bleeding. So they pointed to the beverage companies as being at fault. But the companies turned the finger around and pointed it at the public saying it was their fault for actually doing the littering. And they created the “Keep America Beautiful” non-profit to spread the word about not littering. Brilliant! Fight litter without being held accountable and maintain sales.

Whatever their intentions, you can’t really argue that the outcome of their campaign did decrease litter.

National recycling didn’t become common until later.

Step 1: Create disposables.
Step 2: Create recycling.

Ok it’s not quite so simple. Recycling existed as a concept far before it became a mainstream idea in the environmental movement of the 60s and 70s. But when single-use disposable items became so common, recycling stepped out of the underground and became more forefront.

So is recycling good?

  • Recycling is good. Although we MUST do it correctly since contamination in recyclables is detrimental to the whole chain. We can also help by reducing our purchasing and voting with our dollar — buying stuff that comes in less packaging.
  • Recycling is also a distraction from the bigger picture: we need to hold big companies accountable for their impacts on the earth and the waste stream.

What happens to our recycling after we throw it in the curbside cart?

  1. Picked up curbside by your trash service providers.
  2. Taken to a facility in NE Bend (Central Oregon Recycling) and pushed into 2000 pound bales of mixed recycling.
  3. Trucked to a Materials Recycling Facility (MRF) in Portland.
  4. Mixed bales are broken open, sorted with conveyor belts, machines, and by hand into different material types.
  5. Re-baled into single material bundles.
  6. Sold as a commodity to a variety of places depending on demand.
  7. Materials turn into new products to buy and use!

To keep recycled items in the loop, try to buy products made of recycled material!

What are 4 common contaminants in the recycling stream of Central Oregon?

The thing is, just because it has the recycling symbol, doesn’t mean it’s recyclable. Know what is recyclable and what isn’t. Don’t be a wishful recycler!

Keep these things out of the curbside cart:

  1. Plastic bags — Don’t bag your recycling and don’t put empty bags in the cart either! The bags catch in the conveyor belts at the MRF and clog up the system. You can recycle them at many locations around Central Oregon. Check it out at www.PlasticFilmRecycling.org.
  2. Plastic clamshells — low-grade plastic that is hard to recycle anywhere and is not accepted in Central Oregon. Vote with your dollar by not purchasing foods that come in clamshells!
  3. Paper coffee cups — made of laminated plastic and paper. Avoid using them by bringing your own cup or enjoying a “for here” cup while sitting in the coffee shop!
  4. Plastic beer cups and red solo cups — not recyclable in Central Oregon except through events staffed by the Broomsmen waste management company. NOT accepted curbside.

If recycling isn’t that great, why should I keep doing it?

The system we have set up here is not perfect. But if we can help extend the life of our Knott Landfill through diverting recycling and keeping at least some materials in the loop, then we’re doing a good thing.

Bottom line is, though, do your best to avoid single-use. “Reduce and reuse” is the best answer!

Buying in Bulk: What’s the Big Deal?

In considering whether or not to buy in bulk, there are many pros. And in my book, there are also some challenges. (To clarify, for the purposes of this posting, bulk is when you can get any amount of something you want.  Pre-packaged items do not count.)

First, here are some benefits:

  1. Less packaging waste
    This is especially true if you bring your own container.
  2. Less food waste!
    By buying in bulk, you are able to buy only what you need.
  3. It can save you some money
    Buying heavily packaged products can mean that you are paying more for the packaging. That is, you are paying for something that you will throw away immediately.

Ok, what about the challenges?

  1. It’s not always the least expensive option.
    But you can still save money by buying less quantity and buying only what you need. If you do this, it is less likely for food to go bad, which is like throwing money away.
  2. It takes time to learn to remember your containers.
    Forming new habits takes time. And more than the mythical 21 days. While it would be nice to change yourself in 3 weeks, one study found it takes closer to 2 months. But you just have to start doing it and it will get easier every time!

So where can you buy bulk in Deschutes County? Zero-Waste extraordinaire Bea Johnson started a bulk finder website with a database of bulk sellers. There are quite a few in the area! If you know of one that isn’t on the site, you can add it. The biggest lack we noticed was beauty and animal products. As far as we know, Cornucopia Natural Foods in Redmond is the only place that sells bulk laundry and dishwasher detergent as well as shampoo and conditioner. Market of Choice does have liquid Castille soap (Dr. Bronners) on tap!

One type of bulk is loose produce: whole fruit and vegetables that are not pre-packaged. Potatoes can be put in a reusable bag rather than taking the big bag of potatoes that are pre-packaged. You can buy a whole apple and cut it up rather than buying a pre-sliced apple.

Buying your beer in a growler definitely counts as buying in bulk, by the way! Growler fill stations are not included in the list below, but most places will do it for you.

Before you go: get your clean, dry containers ready! Don’t forget to make sure they are labeled with the tare weight. You can also re-use plastic bags and mesh produce bags.


Deschutes County Bulk Locations

Below is a list of stores we know carry bulk. I didn’t include any breweries, but buying your beer in a growler definitely counts as buying in bulk! No, our list isn’t long, but we do have some great options here:

Central Oregon Locavore (1841 NE 3rd St, Bend)

Notables: Teas! Locavore also puts a deposit on your egg carton. They have deposits for some of their cream and milk as well.

Cornucopia Natural Foods
111 NW 6th St, Redmond

Notables: As far as we know, the only shop in the county that sells bulk laundry soap, dishwashing soap, shampoo, and conditioner! Plus almond oil. (In addition to Dr. Bronner’s Castille soap, spices, teas, herbs, and other general dry goods.)

Country Store (57100 Beaver Dr, Sunriver)

Fettle Botanic
19570 Amber Meadow Dr #120, Bend

Notables: Medicinal and culinary herbs, tinctures, and teas.

Food for Less (63455 N highway 97, Bend)

Notables: Maple syrup! Balsamic vinegar, liquid aminos, soy sauce. Good spice section.

Fred Meyer (61535 South Highway 97, Bend and 944 SW Veterans Way, Redmond)

Hawthorne Healing Arts
39 NW Louisiana Ave, Bend

Medicinal herbs

Market of Choice (115 NW Sisemore St, Bend)

Notables: In addition to many types of dry goods including grains, candies, fruits and nuts, Market of Choice has honey, nut butters, oils, cider vinegar, spices, teas, soy sauce, and vanilla extract! Plus, they are the only store we know of that sells bulk liquid soap (Dr. Bronners). Coffee!

Melvin’s (160 S Fir St, Sisters)

Notables: nuts, beans, grains, coffee

Navidi’s Olive Oil and Vinegars (120 NW Minnesota Ave, Bend)

Notables: An amazing array of oils and vinegars. BONUS: bottom of the barrel oils that is too small a volume to sell or a little bit old gets taken to a local soapmaker who turns it into bar soap that’s sold in the shop! You can bring your own bottle as long as it is CLEAN and DRY. Plus, it must be a size they sell. That is, either 200 mL or 375 mL bottles that are clearly labeled as such.

Safeway (All 3 locations in Bend and the 1 in Redmond)

Notables: coffee!

TeaBuzz – Global TeaBar
45 NW Greeley Ave, Bend

Notables: loose leaf tea where you can bring your own container!

Whole Foods (2610 NE Hwy 20, Bend)

Notables: Bulk bar soap, liquid dairy with deposit bottles

Any place we’re missing?


Talkin’ Trash: July’s City Club Forum, Round 2 questions!

Below is a continuation from a previous blog from July’s City Club event Talkin Trash. More questions from you: answered! Denise and I tag-teamed these again. Do you have more questions? We love them — send them our way.

Are reusable bags better/more sustainable than paper? How cost-effective?!

Yes, reusable bags are better than paper bags. Paper bags actually require more energy than plastic to be made (and also contribute to deforestation in places) and do cost stores more than plastic. Plastic bags are made from a petroleum byproduct, but as we know they last forever in the environment. The benefit of paper bags here is that they break down eventually or are easily recycled. Paper bags have a bigger “upstream impact” and plastic bags have a bigger “downstream” impact.

The answer is to use the reusable bags you already have, and if you don’t already have some, every thrift store has some, so no need for new ones. I am personally disappointed that the 10 cent fee is going away because in the short week I saw it implemented at stores I witnessed many people carry out their groceries or put them back in their cart for unloading into their car. Meaning, 10 cents was actually enough to change behavior.   -denise

What happens to the stuff in the recycling that’s not supposed to be there?

All of our curbside comingled recycling gets bundled up into 2,000-pound bales at a facility across the street from 10 barrel. From there it gets sent to a Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) where it gets cut apart and placed on the floor of a giant warehouse. It then gets sorted both by machines and by hand depending on the material. If the bales are too contaminated with trash, they can end up in the landfill. If it is minor contamination, it may still get through. However, the comingled recycling in the United States has been so contaminated that the overseas markets that used to take it now refuse. Because our recycling was so contaminated with stuff that wasn’t supposed to be there, much of those bales ended up in overseas landfills or, worse, in the ocean. The trash that is picked out by hand by people at the MRF gets sent to a local Oregon landfill. -Ani

What is the status of recycling economics in Deschutes County, i.e. can we sell our recycling to be cost-effective?

The global recycling markets continue to be volatile and changing.  There is currently a cost to recycle the materials listed on your recycling guide. It is important for our residents to Recycle Right and only include the materials that are listed on the recycling guide to help keep contamination at a minimum.  The commingle material is baled in Bend and shipped to a Material Recovery Facility (MRF’s), where the material is sorted and sent to market.  Any trash or other material that is not included in the recycling program will be disposed of.  -Ani

What percentage of the items put in [curbside] recycling containers end up being thrown out because they are not in fact recyclable?

The Oregon DEQ last did a recycling composition /contamination report in 2009 / 2010 and it indicated about 9%-10% of incoming commingled materials were contaminants and not supposed to be set out for recycling as part of the commingled recycling mix. -Ani

China is no longer buying recycling. Where is ours going?

All of our curbside comingled recycling gets bundled up into 2,000-pound bales at a facility across the street from 10 barrel. From there it gets sent to a Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) in Portland where it gets cut apart and placed on the floor of a giant warehouse. It then gets sorted by both machine and re-baled into like materials and sold as commodities. As far as we have learned, Deschutes County’s recycling is actually getting recycled. Below is a list we received from the MRF where our recycling currently goes, although they wouldn’t disclose any company names to protect their clients and the competitive market. This is all the information they were currently able to give:

All Plastics – most stay domestic going different places within the US but some goes to Canada

Cardboard – stays domestic and goes to 4 different mills on the West Coast.

Mixed paper
– this includes office paper, catalogs, newsprint, junk mail, paperboard, and all paper other than cardboard — goes to other countries including Korea, India, and Indonesia. It is made into recycled paper rolls and also lightweight box board.

Glass – when recycled curbside gets sent to a company in Portland called Glass-to-Glass. There, the crushed and comingled bits of glass get sorted by color using an optical machine that tests for clarity! It’s amazing. Then most of the sorted glass gets sold down the street to Owens-Illinois where the glass is melted and made into new bottles.

Talkin’ Trash: July’s City Club Forum

In the middle of July, the Rethink Waste Project was invited to come present at the monthly City Club Forum. Our own Denise Rowcroft did an amazing job talking all about waste reduction, recycling correctly, and the impacts that our consumption has on the earth. She spoke alongside Timm Schimke, Deschutes County’s Director of Solid Waste, who spoke about the short future of Knott’s Landfill, which is projected to be full by 2029. He also touched on options for where our trash will go once Knott is full. In case you missed the forum, you can watch it here

Have you ever been to a City Club meeting? After the speakers present, there is an allotted time for audience questions. After the forum, we received a list of all audience questions that didn’t have time to be answered. There are some really great questions in the list, so we decided to share some with you here. Since there were so many, look for future posts with more questions answered!

I really appreciate the work of the Rethink Waste Project. How will you continue to reach all the new people moving to Bend? 

Thanks!  We realize that visitors to our area (and new residents) bring knowledge and behavior from wherever they come. Maybe their home city accepts much more items in its recycling bins than we do. This totally contaminates our local stream. Or they may come from a rural area that doesn’t have any recycling in place at all, so they put recyclable items in the trash. And sometimes it is just hard to do the right thing in a new community if you are given no information, tools, or motivation to do it. Vacation brain, anyone?

Realizing there is work to be done in this area, this past spring we brought together a couple of focus groups gathering two dozen people from across the tourism sector. Lodging, recreation, retail, travel, resorts and breweries were represented to get input on ways that we could reach visitors. We also spoke with other communities to learn about what is happening (or not happening) in similar communities that experience tourism. We are currently compiling this information to come up with a recommended action plan that specifically address these concerns. If you are tapped into this sector in any way (vacation rentals, for example) please reach out to us! -denise

Could you please tell us more about the program starting this fall that allows food waste in the yard debris bins? 

Currently, anyone in Bend city limits can opt in for yard debris service. This cart is picked up every other week on glass recycling week, and can currently accept leaves, grass clipping, branches, weeds, coffee grounds, plus raw fruit and vegetable kitchen scraps (like you would put in a backyard composting bin). {Here’s a link to what they currently accept: https://bendgarbage.com/residential-yard-debris-service/ }

Beginning later this year (official date TBD) all residents in city limits that opt-in to this yard debris pick up service will be able to put ALL food waste in their bins for composting (including anything that’s left on the plate, including meat, bread, oily foods that you wouldn’t put in a home bin.)  This is really exciting as it will greatly help us reduce the organics heading to the landfill. However, just because you can compost it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t also be working to avoid wasted food in the first place. Get tips on that here: http://www.RethinkWasteProject.org/FoodWaste/ -denise

Please educate me: is kitty litter “yard waste” or regular garbage waste? 

Kitty litter is garbage waste. And although dogs are different species than your question addresses, here is a great article from The Source Weekly about dog poop. –Ani

What sites are being considered within the county for potential landfill locations? 

The county has not disclosed any information about specific sites at this time. –Ani

Are there tool (lending) libraries in Bend?

Although there are currently no specific lending libraries in Bend, there are places that rent tools. But even better than renting tools, have you heard of the DIYcave? If you’ve never heard of this unique and inspiring maker’s space, go check it out. They offer membership as well as classes with an incredible array of woodworking, metalworking, welding tools — and more.

Another great option is to create a sharing space amongst your friends and neighbors. You can start an excel google doc where people can list what they have to borrow. You can have columns with whatever rules or restrictions you want with a check out column. This can allow your friends to try out tools or appliances they might not have without having to buy one. A few examples of what I have borrowed from some of my friends? A cider press, a pasta maker, a multimeter, a circular saw, a wetsuit. Some things I have lent out to my friends: a food dehydrator, a food processor, a bicycle pannier, a bicycle trailer. –Ani

How do you view Amazon as a company as it relates to over-consumption, purchasing of “stuff” in this day and age?

I think I’m one of the Amazon holdouts.  Once you sign up for free 2 day shipping, not choosing that becomes so much more of a hassle. Why take the time to go downtown and look to see if they have the book you want in stock, when you can have it shipped right to your door?! It definitely has some benefits for our society. For example, people in rural communities now have equal access to getting what they need and getting it delivered. Also, the reviews can be super helpful in learning about the quality of the product. It is a fact that most products are actually engineered for “planned obsolescence” and break in 6 months or less.

But the impacts of online shopping can’t be ignored. The carbon footprint of the item’s traveling distance to obscene amounts of packaging has enormous downstream effects. And the widespread, increased consumption that online shopping promotes has many unseen upstream impacts. Plus, Amazon is so full of cheap stuff that it distorts what we think things should cost. Often that cheap stuff just becomes instant garbage.

I choose to shop used first for most things, then brick and mortar – both big box and local businesses. And I shop online when I can’t find something in town. If I am buying a gift for someone out of town, it won’t be on time if I have to ship it myself, so online shopping it is! OK, off my soapbox now. -denise

Update 8/20/19: Here are answers to even more questions, published on the City Club website. 

Single Use Plastics and their Impacts. Can we change it?

Plastics are a problem

Is the image of a sea turtle with a single use straw up its nose or a beach completely blanketed in plastic trash burned into your brain like it is in mine? No need to stab the fallen. But seriously: plastic (especially the single use variety) is a problem. And sometimes it seems utterly overwhelming a topic to think about let alone to change. After attending the Association of Oregon Recyclers Sustainable Oregon 2019 conference last week, I have been thinking a lot about plastics:

  • the rise of the use of plastics after World War 2 as an amazing, cheap, functional new thing
  • how plastics have become profusely ubiquitous in every facet of my life (the bathroom, the produce aisle, the doctor’s office, the restaurant)
  • about its recyclability AND lack of recyclability
  • the question of whether plastic alternatives have more or less environmental impact

According to the Ocean Conservancy beach cleanup, here is the list of the top 10 most common trash items found in the 2018 International Coastal Clean Up report along with the number of those items picked up off the coasts:

    Cigarette butts: 2,412,151
    Food wrappers: 1,739,743
    Plastic drink bottles: 1,5689,135
    Plastic bottle caps: 1,091,107
    Plastic grocery bags: 757,532
    Other plastic bags: 746,211
    Straws, stirrers: 643,562
    Plastic take-out containers: 632,874
    Plastic lids: 624,878
    Foam take-out containers: 580,570

Although we aren’t very close to the ocean, we still ship all of our recycling to Portland, much of which gets transported overseas. So we ARE affecting those numbers, too, despite our distance from the sea. 

The most profound thing about this list to me is that every item on this list was used one time. And it is all avoidable waste — each thing can be replaced with a reusable thing. (Pipe tobacco, anyone? Ok, I don’t endorse tobacco use, but if that’s your jam, consider a pipe!)

In May, the Center for International Environmental Law came out with a 108 page report entitled Plastic and Climate: The Hidden Costs of a Plastic Planet that addresses the fact that the plastic lifestyle we have embraced on this earth is having a direct and visceral impact on climate change. Here is the summary. If we can’t let go of our dependence on single use plastics (including straws, cups, cutlery, packaging, grocery bags and so much more), we will not be able meet global climate targets such as laid out in Climate Action Steering Committee and the European Union climate action policy.

What are we doing about it locally?

The plastic bag ban passed in the City of Bend in December 2018 with heavy education around bringing your own reusable bags and why that is important. In June 2019, the Oregon State legislature passed a similar ordinance causing talk of repealing the bag ban in Bend so not to cause confusion. This conversation will happen in late July. Regardless, a plastic bag ban is happening across Oregon! Don’t wait until July 1, though, bring those reusable bags now!

For those of us who smoke cigarettes (remember it was the number one most commonly found item on the coasts), you do you. But if you are going to smoke, get those butts off the streets. In downtown Bend, the Broomsmen has set up cigarette butt recycling stations! If you put your butt in there, it will get turned into things like park benches. If you aren’t downtown, please put your butts in the trash. The Broomsmen is also setting up some recycling programs in partnership with some local organizations and a company in Portland called Agylix. They are collecting polystyrene cups from some breweries and hope to expand the business to have monthly collection days for the public. 

Organizations like Les Schwab and 4 Peaks are allowing reuse of silipints purchased in the venue for beer or wine vessels. Just remember to keep reusing them later! Bring them on your camping trip, for example.

What can we do?

  1. Sign up for Plastic Free July!
  2. Buy less stuff! Think about your purchases. Do you really need it?
  3. Pay attention to the packaging your purchases come in. Is there a choice with less packaging? Can you buy it in bulk with a BYO Glass Jar or reused bag?
  4. Have a “togo kit” you keep at hand for outings: reusable bag, reusable silverware, reusable cup for coffee or beer, and even a reusable togo container for when you know you are going out to eat.
  5. Talk about it. Tell your friends. Tell your neighbors. Teach your kids.
  6. Know — without a doubt — what is and isn’t recyclable!

    Do you know what actually happens to your recycling? Or what happens to the garbage we put in our recycling bin because we think it is recyclable? Recycling is important but knowing what is recyclable is VERY important. The reason that China and other Asian countries stopped accepting recycling is because of contamination issues. That means we have been putting things in our curbside recycling bin that are not recyclable through the outlets where it is being taken. Are you a wishful recycler? We have to do it right! Are you confused about what is and isn’t recyclable? Ask us! You can schedule a presentation for free: . Or here is a handy sign you can hang by your household or workplace bins to help people learn. 

What else do YOU do?


6 things you can recycle in Deschutes County that you didn’t know you could.

Just don’t put it in your curbside bin!

Plus: What do you think are the 3 very common contaminants in curbside recycling?

Recycling! It’s a buzz word. Often times what we think of as “recyclable” and “not recyclable” has to do with what you can and can’t put in your curbside bin. But just because it will contaminate your curbside bin, doesn’t mean it isn’t actually recyclable! (For curbside recycling info, check out this link here.) So you can become a recycling warrior and take it to the next level, here are 6 things that ARE RECYCLABLE in Deschutes County:

  1.  Corks!
    Cork is a precious resource that is harvested from trees: an amazing renewable resource that you can find great reuses for if you are feeling crafty. You can also drop them off at places like the Habitat for Humanity ReStore. But if you can’t find a reuse for it, Cork ReHarvest is a company that collects the corks and finds a way to recycle them. You can drop your corks off at the Whole Foods Market in Bend. Please note this recycling opportunity is only for real cork corks — not for the ones made out of plastic.
  2. Plastic Film
    Wait! You might think you already know all about this…you might be thinking, “I know! I always drop my plastic grocery bags off at the front of the grocery store!” Well, not so fast. First, in addition to your clean and dry plastic film grocery bags, you can put bubble wrap, case wrap, clean ziplocks, produce bags, 100% plastic mailers, shipping air pillows and more in that bin. (There is one in the front of Safeway, Albertsons, Fred Meyer, Target, Home Depot and more…click here for a complete list.) Even though the City of Bend has passed a ban on plastic bags, there is still plenty of plastic film in the world that can go in these bins. This film is turned into products such as Trex decking and Polywood outdoor furniture (the latter of which you can purchase at Powderhouse here in Bend!)
  3. Old Musical Instrument Strings
    Calling all musicians! Bend is a town full of them. Did you know they are recyclable? You can drop off your old strings at Central Oregon Recording: 61419 S Hwy 97 Suite N.
  4. PakTech 6-pack Holders
    Hold on to your hard plastic PakTech 6-pack holders and drop them off at Worthy, GoodLife or Cascade Lakes! I heard if you take them to Worthy, you might get a dollar off your next 6 pack or a pint.
  5. Paint!
     And Stains. There are several places around the county where paint can be recycled including most paint stores, ReStores, and Deschutes Recycling. It’s important to keep it out of the landfill because it is a household hazardous waste. There are lots of HHW types accepted at Deschutes Recycling at Knott Landfill.
  6. All Number 5 Plastics
    The Gimme 5 program collects #5 plastics and turns it all into Preserve brand toothbrushes, razors and more. There is a drop off bin at Whole Foods, right in the front of the store!

And here are the 3 most common culprits for curbside contamination. Keep these things out of the blue bin, THEY ARE NOT RECYCLABLE curbside.

  1. Coffee Cups – These are plastic lined and CANNOT be recycled anywhere in Deschutes County. The best thing to do is to Bring Your Own Cup!
  2. Plastic Clamshells – These are made of a low quality plastic that doesn’t have a buyer in the recycling market. They often hold muffins, spinach, and berries. The best thing to do is to avoid purchasing things that come in a clamshell.
  3. Plastic Film – Although this is recyclable at grocery stores and some other places of business, just keep it out of your curbside bin! READ: You can’t bag your recyclables! Just put them directly in the curbside bin and take the trash bag (as long as it’s clean) to be recycled at the store. Or better yet, don’t line your indoor recycling bin to begin with. Just make sure things are clean before you put them in there. It’s always best practice to bring your own bag whenever you can — this includes reusable produce bags that you can even make out of old t-shirts. But if you do have plastic film, reusing and then recycling is the best course of action.

And there is so much more that can be recycled. Check out our Find a Recycler or Reuser tool.