Tuesday, December 11, 2012

It all boils down to money....

Earlier this year, Alameda County (occupying the East Bay region of the San Francisco Bay area) passed the nation's first-ever drug-take-back legislation which would make manufacturers responsible for the cost of collecting and disposing of left-over pharmaceuticals. The Alameda County legislation prohibits manfacturers from passing their disposal costs on to consumers.

MercuryNews reported that on Friday (December 7), the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the Biotechnology Industry Organization and the Generic Pharmaceutical Association filed a lawsuit against Alameda County in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. The county has been anticpating this course of action, and just waiting for it to come. In 2011, the three allies staunchly blocked attempts in multiple states to launch drug take back programs. The pharmaceutical industry maintains that the most appropriate means of disposal is down the toilet, in the trash, or in drop boxes (of which there are very few across the entire U.S.).

The lawsuit boils down to money. The lawsuit states that,"The [Alameda County] ordinance favors local interests by deliberately shifting costs away from local consumers and taxpayers and onto drug manufacturers and pharmaceutical consumers nationwide." The industry argues that consumers and local government entities (and law enforcement agencies) should shoulder the burden for disposal of medications.

In an interview with the New York Times, Nathan A. Miley, the president of the Alameda County Board of Supervisors and the champion of the legislation, said, “It’s just unfortunate that PhRMA would fight this because it would be pennies for them.”

Proponents of product stewardship for pharmaceuticals have long battled the lobbying power that the deep pockets of the pharmaceutical industry brings to the table. In 2009, revenues for the top 10 pharmaceutical companies topped $330 billion, according to a July 2010 report by Internal Trade Association Office of Health & Consumer Goods.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Trash to Treasure: A repurposed and beautiful memory maker for your Christmas tree

I love looking at the ornaments on our Christmas tree. They all bring back such special memories. I found a great way to repurpose some "trash" AND add more memories to our Christmas tree this year, to bring family to our Christmas even when we cannot be with them over the holidays. You can do the same.

Metal or plastic lids from empty jars (rinsed and dried)
Old sheet music (check out your second hand store, or print some for free online)
Craft Glue
Photos of friends and family members
Pencil or pen

  1. Place the lid over your photograph. Center your image. Trace around the lid onto the photo.
  2. Cut on the line you traced.
  3. Place a dot of glue on the back of the photo. Insert the photo down into the center of the lid.
  4. Place the lid on your sheet music. Trace a circle about .75-1" larger than the lid (the distance should be roughly double the depth of the lid rim).
  5. Cut out the circle of sheet music.
  6. Put glue on the top of the lid. Center the lid on the wrong side of the sheet music.
  7. Place a thin layer of glue around the exterior and interior rim of the lid. Fold the sheet music up and over to the inside of the lid.
  8. Cut a length of ribbon to fit the inside rim of the lid. Glue it in place.
  9. Cut a 5-6" length of ribbon. Glue the two ends to the back of the lid to form a loop. Allow to dry completely before hanging on your tree.

Friday, November 30, 2012

How to make reusable fabric gift bags

Earlier this week, I shared that most wrapping papers are not recyclable, due to the poor quality of the paper fibers.  I know that no matter how simple we try to make Christmas, there is still a pile of wrapping paper in the garbage by the end of the giving season. The same is true of birthday parties for my kiddos.
What if you had NO wrapping paper to throw away? Wouldn't that be refreshing?! Well, that is a fairly easy goal to achieve! Just make your OWN gift bags, and share them with family and friends, as well. It's simple. And even more inexpensive if you shop the clearance racks at the fabric store Here's how to make a gift bag:
1.            Purchase and prepare your supplies for a large drawstring bag. You will need 1/2 yard of sturdy cotton fabric with thread to match. Also, purchase 3 yards of matching cord or ribbon. Wash your fabric through a medium heat cycle in the washing machine and then dry it on medium; this will allow for shrinkage before you start your project.
o      Don’t want to purchase fabric? Old cotton dress shirts, kitchen towels, cloth napkins, and solid-colored t-shirts also make a great fabric stock for a gift bag.
2.            Cut your fabric. You will need two pieces of fabric, cut to the same dimensions. If you want a medium-size bag, cut two rectangles 13 inches wide and 17 inches long.
3.            Pin the two sides and bottom of the drawstring bag fabric, right sides facing together. Leave a 1 1/4-inch open area at the top of each seam on both sides of the bag. Sew over the pinned area with a 1/2-inch seam.
4.            Press the seams open with a steam iron, if you want. Or, zig zag over them to prevent fraying.
5.            Press 1/4 inch under on both top sides. Press another 1 inch under, also. Pin both sides in place.
6.            Sew both top areas over the pins, close to the inside fold. Backstitch at the beginning and end of each side for extra strength. This will form two tubes that will hold the cord (draw string).
7.            Cut the purchased cord in half. Each half should measure 1 1/2 feet. Attach a large safety pin to one end of a cord piece. Use the safety pin to guide the cord through one side of the fabric tube. Even out the cord and tie them together over the top of the drawstring bag. Repeat with the opposite side. Open right sides out. Insert your gift!
8.            Option 2 for the closure: Don’t want to sew in a cord? At step 5, Press 1/4 inch under on both top sides. Press another 1 inch under, also. Pin both sides in place. Stitch close to the lower fold all the way around the top.
o      Open the bag right sides out. Tack a ribbon or cord at its center point to the side seam. Insert gift. Tie the bag closed.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Celebrate the season without "trashing" your home

The holidays are such a great time to share laughter, encouragement, and love with family and friends. Chances are your calendar is already filling up with get-togethers for the holiday season. In addition to our increased socializing, our waste increases over the holiday season as well. According to the EPA, the volume of household waste in the United States generally increases 25 percent between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day – about 1 million extra tons.

So, while you are still in the early planning stages, consider these simple tips to help you celebrate the season without “trashing” your home and your budget.
1.      Nix the cheap wrapping paper. While the bright colors are pretty, it’s not a very economical or environmentally sound choice. Most wrapping papers are not recyclable curbside, due to the poor quality of the fiber used to make the paper. Instead, create your own wrappings!
a.      Buy a roll or two of brown “shipping” paper. Use markers or paints and stencils to decorate the wrap. Make bows out of fabric or sturdy ribbon, which can be used year to year.
b.      Make fabric gift bags.  These bags are simple and can be used over and over from year to year.

2.      Avoid paper plates and plastic utensils. Pull out your good dishes. No matter how small or simple the gathering, bringing out the good dishes always makes the event feel a bit more festive. Remember, paper plates and plastic utensils are not recyclable.

3.      Be thoughtful in your gift giving. Rather than buying more “stuff” with more packaging, think about experience gifts, such as tickets to a play or museum, a gift certificate for a massage, a certificate to a locally owned restaurant, even a certificate for free babysitting. We don’t often purchase such gifts for ourselves, so the thought will be appreciated.

4.      Plan your menu around what is available locally. Cook only for the amount you will be serving. Package up leftovers and send them home with your guests. Or, freeze your leftovers and save them for another meal.
For more tips and tidbits to live simply and economically, visit our facebook page at www.facebook.com/TriCountyRecycle.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Show a little kindness to your waste hauler

Our hot sultry days of summer are gone. But that doesn't mean our waste stops smelling after it has been sitting for a couple of days. Whew! What a stink that garbage can is at times. My recycling too.

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to get up really early to meet some of our local drivers and haulers at The Dalles Disposal. What a funny, hard-working group of men! They have a TOUGH job -- hoisting containers of yard debris, garbage, and boxes into the back end of a truck for hours on end, in the heat and the rain and even the frigid snow of our Gorge winters. Thankyou, gents! I read a report recently that rated Waste Haulers as one of the most hazardous jobs. Imagine it -- you are out in the street, sometimes having to dodge cars, lifting heavy objects, working around compacting and moving machinery, dealing with sometimes hazardous materials that people put in their garbage (needles, chemicals, paint, glass, jagged metal objects). Yikes.

So, let's all focus on what we can do to make their jobs a little safer and a little less stinky.
1) Make sure you separate your recycling and garbage correctly. Keep glass in a separate bucket or box. Break down corrugated cardboard and put it next to or under your recycle bins. If recyclable items go in with your trash, the haulers are not going to separate them out. Its not safe for them.

2) Don't put soiled cardboard or paper in your recycling, for example a greasy, cheese stained pizza box. They should go in the trash. Soiled cardboard and paper are the worst offenders. They will have to be pulled out at the sorting facility to avoid contaminating a load of recycled paper. The recycling process for pulping paper cannot remove the contamination of whatever food has saturated the paper goods.

3) Sharps (needles) ONLY go in a specific sharps container. They cost less than $10 usually, and are available at most pharmacies, or The Dalles Disposal or Hood River Garbage. Filled sharps containers can be taken to the office at The Dalles Disposal or Hood River Garbage between 9:00 AM and 5:00 PM, Monday through Friday. Don't cause your hauler the panic of being stuck by a needle in your trash or recycling, and the medical hassle they have to go if this occurs.

4) Get rid of as much stink as possible. In order to make life easier on us, the consumer, we have been told as of late that you don't have to rinse your recyclables. Just put them in your recycling bin. But, think about the odor that builds after several days in your recycling bin. Now multiply that times the hundreds of homes and businesses that your haulers service every week.  That's a lot of stink to put up with! Want to make your recycling hauler happier? Go ahead and rinse all of your containers. Imagine the smell from recycling from hundreds and thousands of households, sitting for days, attracting flies and vermin. Yuck. So, give some love to your hard-working hauler, and go ahead and rinse, even though you don’t have to.

5) No hazardous materials in your garbage. I've heard horrid stories over the past couple of years about the dangers haulers face -- shotgun shells exploding in the truck as it is compacting a load, paint cans exploding and leaving paint all over the truck, the hauler, and the street; mini-propane tanks exploding; haulers inhaling fertilizer as they dump a garbage can that has a bag of fertilizer in the bottom. Risky business. Keep them safe. Take all of your hazardous materials to a hazardous waste collection event, held once a quarter in Hood River and The Dalles (November, February, May, and August), or once a year in outerlying communities.

6) Keep it light. Don't overload your can with heavy, soggy materials. Don't leave your can open to collect rain or water from your sprinklers. Your haulers are still lifting the cans into the backs of the garbage trucks, and usually on their own. We do not yet have automated trucks in the Gorge. So, be mindful of their backs and yours. Don't overload your can.

Next time you see your hauler, you might consider telling them, "Thank you!" Theirs is a dangerous, dirty, and often thankless job. So, let's show them a little love.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Hallelujah! A solution for all those candy wrappers that will pile up next week!

How many of you dread the candy pile from Halloween? Our little community has some great events for the kids, and the businesses and community are so generous. Which is great.... But we end up with sooo much candy at our house, which means lots and lots of little plastic and waxy wrappers in the garbage for weeks on end.

Yesterday, I had the great opportunity to sit at lunch with Albe Zakes, Vice-President of Media Relations for Terracyle, Inc. Much to my joy, I discovered that Terracycle has a solution for all of those candy wrappers.

For those of you who have never heard of Terracycle, they offer a number of collection programs for hard to recycle items, like candy wrappers, juice pouches, permanent markers, and the list goes on. Each of these collection categories has a "Brigade," which you as a recycler can sign up for. (A word of caution and patience, some of these brigades are currently full, but you will be notified when they have an opening.) You collect these items from friends, family, schools, your community organizations, co-workers, and then package them up and send them to Terracycle. Terracycle then in turns gives $.02 per piece to your favorite non-profit group (or you can choose one from their list). They then take those candy wrappers, for instance, and upcycle them into something else, like plastic benches.

Isn't that ingenious? I was inspired by the creativity that evolved into Terracycle. The company started out with one freshman at Princeton University who made fertilizer from worm castings, put it in empty pop bottles, and sold it. If you want a funny and inspiring story, check Terracycle out. Go to Terracycle.com for the story.

If you are not able to get into a bridgade right now, you can still start "stock-piling" your materials. Or, if you would rather, contact TriCounty Hazardous Waste & Recycling at 541-506-2636. We can connect you with a Brigade leader in The Dalles who is collecting numerous materials to benefit Colonel Wright Elementary School.

Happy recycling!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Air quality, fire danger limit burning still

Murky brown skies. Dry, dry, dry conditions. It's no wonder Open Burn season has been delayed in the region. So what are we to do with all of the end-of-season garden material, tree trimmings, and yard waste? You've got a few options.

1) If you don't already susbscribe to Yard Debris service as part of your Garbage services, you can add that service on, either at a weekly or bi-weekly increment, through The Dalles Disposal. You can reach then at 541-298-5149.

2) Keep building up your material, and check The City of The Dalles website for announcement of permission to burn. City of The Dalles, Oregon DEQ Eastern Region, and MidColumbia Fire and Rescue are all partnering together to keep our region informed and safe.
  • Be aware that you are required to have an Open Burn permit, which is available for $5 from MidColumbia Fire & Rescue. Their offices are located at 1400 West 8th Street  The Dalles, OR 97058, or call (541) 296-9445.
3) Hold on to your yard debris, and take it to The Dalles Disposal. During the month
of November, The Dalles Disposal will he Dalles Disposal will take your Yard Debris for free,
during open hours. The Dalles Disposal is open Monday through Saturday, 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM.

They are located at 541-298-5149.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Hidden dangers in your home

by Heather Alexander, Solid Waste Specialist

They are there, lurking. Open the cupboard under your bathroom and kitchen sinks. Check the shelves in your laundry room. Look in the garage. Many of the common chemicals we use in our homes are dangerous.  When used as directed, they may be generally safe. However, keep in mind that chemicals can degrade, or change and breakdown over time, becoming more dangerous. When not used as directed, these chemicals can pose significant health risks.

The skull and crossbones is used to indicate the presence of a poisonous chemical. If you see this symbol on a household product, be careful and pay attention to the warning listed on the label.

Many household chemicals should NOT be mixed together. Here are some common products that should NOT be combined:

·         Bleach with Toilet Bowl cleaners:  This mixture can create toxic and deadly fumes.

·         Bleach with Vinegar: Vinegar is a type of acid. When you mix the two, toxic chlorine vapor is produced. Never mix bleach with an acid!

·         Bleach with Ammonia: Toxic, potentially lethal fumes are produced. The main danger comes from chloramine vapors.

·         Different brands of one type of cleaning product: Just because it is used for the same task does not mean the ingredients are the same. Mixing different cleaners together may cause a violent reaction, producing toxins. The mix may also render the ingredients ineffective.

·         Strong alkaline products with strong acidic products: Never mix alkaline (bases) with acids. Acids and alkalis can react violently, presenting a splash hazard. Both acids and alkalis are caustic and may cause chemical burns.

Read the labels of products in your home and follow the instructions for proper use. Many container labels will state the most common dangers from interaction with other products.

For a list of some of the most dangerous household chemicals and their risks, visit www.tricountyrecycle.com, or check out our Facebook page for ongoing tips!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Save a lot with a little planning

by Heather Alexander, Solid Waste Specialist

It’s that time of year again. . . time for the early morning rush to get the kids off to school, dance lessons and soccer practice, weekend football games, time to get together for dinner with friends who have been gone all summer, time for evening meetings.

Now is the time to bring some sanity to your busy life. Gain some peace, save money, and conserve resources with these simple tips:

1)      Plan meals ahead of time, particularly lunches and dinners. By planning your menu ahead of time, you’re more likely to purchase only what you need when you grocery shop. Can you use ingredients to make two separate meals? How about tacos one night, and tex-mex stew another night? Shop farmers markets for great local, fresh produce.

2)      Enjoy the beautiful fall weather by walking or biking to work and school. Talk to other parents, and coordinate a “walking pool” for the kids in your neighborhood. You’ll save gas, and get invigorating exercise to energize your body and mind for the day ahead!

3)      Say no to idling. We all do it…. Leave the car running while we wait for the kids to get out of school, wait for our partner to finish their shopping…. Help create better air quality in the Gorge by turning your car off.

4)      Consolidate trips. How many times do you come and go each day from your home or workplace? Conserve gas and improve air quality by consolidating your trips. Get groceries, pick up the dry cleaning, then pick up the kids, rather than making three separate trips.

Want more ideas on how you can conserve resources and reduce waste? Check out our website at www.tricountyrecycle.com, or find us on Facebook. Let’s get ecosmart together!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Recycling by the numbers?

The other day, a sweet lady approached me and asked, “Can I recycle #5 plastic containers?” Honestly, I don't know a #5 from a #1. Anymore, recycling isn't about the numbers. It's about the quality of the plastic.
I remember the days when we determined what went into our recycling bin based on the number on the container. Boy, that got confusing.  The plastics industry has changed a lot over the years. More and more types of plastics are manufactured with different additives. A lot of recyclability today has to do with how the plastic was formed. Containers that are formed through a blow process, much like blown glass, tend to be sturdier in nature and more desirable, such as tubs, bottles and jars. Plastics that are formed through injection molding, such as the clear plastic containers that strawberries come in, have significantly lower value and strength. The injection process compromises the integrity of the plastic, which makes it a less valuable product in terms of the recyclables market.
If you are really passionate about recycling items that cannot be taken curbside, there are a few Material Recovery Facilities (MRFs) in the Portland area that will accept presorted materials such as clear plastic “clamshell” food containers and even Styrofoam. Specifically, call Far West Fibers. You can find them on the web at www. Farwestfibers.com
If you are interested in finding out what all of those numbers mean on your plastic containers, check out this interesting resource from National Geographic.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Make your 4th of July red, white, blue and GREEN

I look forward to 4th of July every year. We get together with friends and family. Have great food. Oh, and let’s not forget the homemade vanilla ice cream with fresh blue berries! Oh, my goodness! It’s like Christmas, without all the stress!

As you are planning your 4th of July, and other summer celebrations, put a little thought into adding some GREEN to your fun by reducing your waste. Here are a few tips to make your celebrations fun, waste-less, and satisfying!

1)      Think durable and reusable. Instead of going out and buying paper plates, cups, napkins, plastic utensils, and those cheap plastic table cloths that rip after one use, remake your celebration with durable and reusable goods! If you don’t want to use your good dishes, you can find some inexpensive plastic or melamine dishware and cups at many stores, with refreshing summer themes and colors. Or, better yet, check at second hand stores and garage sales for plates, utensils and cups. Pack your metal utensils along for the outing. I simply put all of my reusable goods in a plastic tote or wicker laundry basket, and we’re off. Top it off with a colorful table cloth.

2)      Rather than buying individual condiment packages, provide condiments such as mustard, ketchup, relish, and sugar in containers.

3)      If you are decorating for your gathering, use decorations that can be reused in future years. Or, consider borrowing decorations from a friend. Consider using alternatives to balloons, such as fresh-cut-flowers.

4)      Bring a bag for your own recycling. If you're spending the day somewhere that you know won't provide recycling opportunities, pack a bag for those couple of aluminum cans you and your party will empty while there.

5)      Look around for a recycling container at the event site or park. If there aren’t any, take your recyclables back home. Write a letter to event coordinators encouraging them to think about recycling next time.

6)      Offer to set out boxes or bags for recycling if you are at a friend or family member’s house, and they have forgotten to provide a container for recycling. Label the containers so you don’t end up with garbage in them.

7)      Got leftovers? Think about all of the unemployed and less fortunate individuals in our state. Oregon ranks 3rd in childhood hunger rates in the nation. So, rather than throw out your extra food, find out if one of the Community Meal sites or Food banks in your community can use the extra. Usually they can. Chances are you even have a neighbor who could really use the extra food right now.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Green Cleaners

I decided to clean out the bathroom cupboards recently. By the time I was done, I was surrounded by bottles. My husband was amused and I was irritated at the proliferation of cleaners that I found under the sink alone.

At $3.00 to $5.00 per bottle, I probably had close to $30 worth of cleaners in my bathroom alone. The one thing most of these cleaners have in common is the caustic smell that induces burning in my lungs and brings tears to my eyes. Many commercial cleaning products use ingredients that can be harmful to people and the environment.

I have found that I can save money, protect my family and the environment, and still achieve a clean home by using safe, simple ingredients to make my own non-toxic green cleaners. Here are just a couple of simple solutions for your household:

Drain Cleaner: Did you know that frequent use of caustic commercial drain cleaners can eat away your pipes? Instead, pour ½ Cup baking soda down the drain. Add ½ Cup Vinegar. Let it “fizz” for a few minutes, and then pour a tea kettle full of boiling water down the drain.

For stubborn clogs, use a plunger or mechanical snake. My plumber even recommends the baking soda and vinegar method!

All purpose cleaner: In a spray bottle, mix 2 tablespoons of vinegar, 1 teaspoon of Sodium Carbonate Washing Soda (found in the laundry section), 2 Cups of hot water, and ¼ Cup liquid vegetable soap, also known as castile soap (such as Dr. Bonner’s, found in most health food sections).

For more Green Cleaner recipes, visit www.tricountyrecycle.com and check out our recommendations for Creating a Healthy Home.