5 Resolutions for a More Sustainable 2021

by Alissa Oliverson (SWAC Chair) December 2020

Trash Talk series from Sustainable Klamath, Solid Waste Action Committee (SWAC)

It’s that time again, when we look forward to the possibilities of a new year and decide how we will rewrite our lives for the next 365 days. As we consider personal care resolutions like eating  healthier and exercising more, it can also be good for us to incorporate activities that benefit the environment – activities that might not seem personal at first glance but can really have a positive impact on our daily lives. As you contemplate your resolutions for 2021, consider how you can add one or more of these sustainable activities to your 2021 story.

1. Swap eco-friendly products into your life

Q-tips can be swapped for products like Last Swab, swabs made from silicone that replace up to  1,000 swabs and are easily washed after each use. Kleenex can be swapped for handkerchiefs. Cloth towels can be swapped for paper towels. Every day 6 million pounds of paper towel waste is produced in the US alone. Paper towels are not recyclable and when they decompose in the landfill, they produce methane gas – one of the leading causes of global warming. You can find re-rollable cotton/flannel towels on sites like Etsy, or even make your own. You still get the convenience of the roll, you won’t be throwing your money in the trash with each used towel, and you’ll be doing your part to help draw down methane emissions from landfills.

2. Ditch dryer sheets

Single-use dryer sheets are wasteful, and being made from polyester, they are not bio degradable. Dryer sheets coat clothing with a lubricating film that reduces static and often adds fragrance. But due to unlisted and other potentially toxic compounds like Quaternary ammonium compounds (QACs), dryer sheets can irritate the skin and respiratory system and poison aquatic organisms that are a crucial part of natural systems. Instead of using dryer sheets you can hang  dry your clothes, which will make them last longer and save you money on energy usage. You can also try wool dryer balls, or simply separate natural fabrics from synthetic fabrics in the dryer.

3. Refuse receipts

Most receipts are not recyclable because they are often made from thermal paper, which is  coated in bisphenol A (BPA). BPA is an endocrine disruptor that is easily absorbed through the  skin and can contribute to increased risk of breast and prostate cancers, cardiovascular disease, and reproductive and brain development abnormalities. For these reasons, BPA has long been banned from products like infant toys and water bottles – but it’s still in the receipt paper that many of us touch every day. Not only do receipts add to the mass in landfills, but they also  poison us with every touch. Say “no receipt, please” and if you really need one, use gloves to handle it and keep it in a dedicated space, like an envelope, so it doesn’t rub off on other things  you touch.

4. Borrow and lend tools or other equipment that you don’t use all the time

If you need a tool for a home improvement project, check out Sustainable Klamath’s Tool  Library at 1221 Main Street (next to Rodeo’s Pizza). The Tool Library is stocked with over 1,000 tools that you can rent for your project and return when you’re done. You’ll save money on a tool you might otherwise buy and never use again, which is a great way to keep your budget  in check and fulfill the most important R in the sustainability behavior chain: Reduce. Borrowing can extend to other items you might need on a temporary basis, like stand-up mixers for baking, extra chairs for special occasions, or even luggage for infrequent travelers.

5. Join or donate to a local sustainability/environmental group

One of the most difficult parts of adding new sustainable activities to our lives is often a lack of support or information. But here in the Basin, you can get both! Sustainable Klamath is a volunteer-based non-profit that works to provide education and resources that help to protect and enhance the health and wellbeing of our region and its people. We are always looking for volunteers and donors to help us continue our good works. Consider putting your unique talents to work with us and enjoy the company of like-minded people who are excited to help make sustainability practices more accessible. You might also consider joining Klamath’s Community Supported Agriculture group (CSA). CSA’s are a great way to promote sustainability and economic stability by employing small-scale methods and keeping food commerce local. SweetUnionFarm.com is the online platform for a small farm in Klamath Falls where you can receive fresh food from local farmers, recipes, VIP access to farm events, and discounts on cooking classes and farm-to-table dinners. You can also purchase local produce through KFOM, the Klamath Farmers Online Marketplace.

Whatever resolutions you decide to pencil in for 2021, know that Sustainable Klamath is here to encourage and support the health and wellbeing of our region and its people. Find out more about us at SustainableKlamath.org. Happy New Year!

Knowledge is Power… and so is Trash!

by Alissa Oliverson, February 2020

Trash Talk Series from Sustainable Klamath, Solid Waste Action Committee (SWAC)

Renewable Natural Gas (RNG), produced by the natural decomposition of your trash, is providing power to 3,000 homes in the Rogue Valley. In the future, it will also fuel an entire fleet of garbage trucks, and more…

As you may have learned in a previous Trash Talk segment, Klamath County is under a contract with Rogue Disposal and Recycling, which permits Rogue Disposal and Recycling to transport our trash to their Dry Creek Landfill in Jackson County. What you may not know is how Rogue Disposal and Recycling is putting all that waste to use.

Every day, an average of 90 tons of trash is transported from Klamath County to the Dry Creek Landfill in Eagle Point, where Rogue Disposal and Recycling has been working on a closed-loop plan for over a decade. 

“Closed-loop” is a term that refers to a system in which a business will reuse the same materials over and over again to create new products. It’s an increasingly popular business model that diverts materials from the landfill and streamlines production. But in this case, where the Dry Creek Landfill is the business and the trash in the landfill is the material, closed-loop refers to the disposal stage being fed back into the creation of a new product. And that new product is fuel.

When organic materials in solid waste decompose, they produce biogas – and that biogas can be used in many ways. Right now, the Dry Creek Landfill Gas-To-Energy Facility captures biogas from the landfill and uses generators to produce 3.2 megawatts of renewable electricity, which Rogue Disposal and Recycling sells to Pacific Corp., ultimately providing power to more than 3,000 homes in the Jackson County area, annually. 

In the future, Rogue Disposal and Recycling plans to do even more. They plan to refine their biogas into a high concentration of methane called Renewable Natural Gas (RNG), and eventually fuel their entire fleet of garbage trucks with it. 

Currently, the majority of their fleet is fueled by Compressed Natural Gas (CNG), which is derived from fossil fuels. The only difference between CNG and RNG is the source of the gas: CNG comes from fossil fuels extracted from beneath the earth’s surface, whereas RNG comes from the decomposition of organic matter. This means that any vehicle able to run on natural gas can take both CNG and RNG. This also means that, in regard to infrastructure, changes must be made to support CNG (or natural gas in general) before RNG can take over. 

By 2023, Rogue Disposal and Recycling projects that they will have achieved a large part of their closed-loop plan by having converted their entire fleet of garbage trucks to CNG. And eventually, they will fuel their natural gas-powered fleet exclusively with the RNG they produce in their own Gas-To-Energy Facility at the Dry Creek Landfill. The infrastructure innovations required to harvest, refine, and use RNG are projected to take about a decade to complete, but some of them can already be seen today. For example: Rogue Clean Fuels, part of the Rogue Waste family of companies, has built a CNG fueling station on Antelope Road that is open to the public, and it is accommodating a growing list of area companies that also use CNG to power their fleet vehicles.

Rogue Disposal and Recycling’s ultimate closed-loop solution stands to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by recycling carbon that is already in the atmosphere; and with its ability to produce more than 2 million diesel-equivalent gallons per year, it also has the potential to fuel other clean-burning facilities and vehicles throughout Southern Oregon.

So, why is this important to us here in Klamath County? After all, Rogue Disposal and Recycling doesn’t pick up our curbside trash – we use Waste Management for that. And our homes are not receiving power from the Dry Creek Landfill Gas-To-Energy Facility. 

Knowing that your properly managed trash could legitimately provide power to your home, business, or vehicle in the future, all while helping to keep our air and environment clean for future generations, provide jobs, and replace problems with solutions is a huge deal! Rogue Disposal and Recycling’s mission can serve as a positive example for surrounding communities, like ours. 

While we want to recycle as much as we can, we should also remember that even when we can’t recycle something, we can still put it to good use by disposing of it properly. So, be sure to follow our local Waste Management guidelines for recycling, and when in doubt, throw it out. 

While you’re following guidelines and discovering the wonderful world of waste management, why not also take a walk once a week and help to beautify our community by picking up litter as you go? Not only will you support your own health with physical activity and build community pride, but by placing litter in appropriate trash cans, you’ll also be helping to make power at the Dry Creek Landfill and you’ll be supporting a future that is filled with positive possibilities for generations to come.

If you need more information on what can and cannot be recycled here in Klamath County, please refer to the SWAC page of our website: Solid Waste Action Committee.

And if you want more information about Rogue Disposal and Recycling, please refer to their website at: RogueDisposal.com.

Remember: knowledge is power… and so is trash!