Green Neighbors Program offers tips to minimize holiday waste

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Clark County Waste and Environmental Outreach is encouraging people to take certain steps to reduce food waste this holiday season.

Household waste in Clark County and the country typically increases between 20% to 25% between Thanksgiving and New Years Day, according to a news release. Food waste, shopping bags, bows, ribbons, packaging, and wrapping paper during the holiday season can add an additional one million tons of garbage a week to the nation’s landfills.

Tina Kendall from the Green Neighbors Program has some tips to help reduce waste.

“We have a Guest-imator, which is a web-based dinner party calculator that estimates how much food you will need to feed your guests in the hopes that extra food doesn’t go to waste,” Kendall said.

A person can select the number of people eating, as well as the amount of leftover meals they expect, while also selecting the main, side and dessert dishes. Once that’s complete, the online calculator offered by the Natural Resources Defense Council at savethefood.com/guestimator/calculator, will tell people how many pounds of food to purchase and will also provide tips on storage and serving, said Kendall.

As the years go on, the amount of waste in landfills has gotten worse, stated the release. Kendall said that 31 tons of garbage can fit into one shipping container. Two years ago, approximately 250 containers of garbage would be generated weekly.

“More recently, we’re hauling around 303 containers to the landfill weekly. This is most likely attributed to population increase, pandemic effects, holiday waste, and other things,” she said. “We want to encourage everyone to not only think about what they put in the garbage but to also use less and reuse what you have.”

Single-use plastic items like plates, cups, napkins, and silverware that come from takeout, delivery, and casual dining can also have a negative effect on the environment. Kendall said nearly one trillion disposable food service products are used each year in the United States.

To help address the costs associated with the waste generated in Washington, a new state law will go into effect in January. Customers will have to indicate if they want single-use items or they will need to select items from self-service bins instead of having them included with a food order. Single-use food and drink items included in the law include plastic utensils, straws, condiment packages, and cup lids for cold beverages.

“Although single-use plastic pollution accumulates most visibly on our streets, in fact our water suffers even more,” Kendall said. “Litter can be the first stage in a waste stream that enters waterways as plastics tossed on the street are washed away by rain or travel via storm drains into rivers and streams. Our waterway plastic pollution is particularly concentrated: Just 10 rivers carry 93% of the world’s total amount of plastic that enters the oceans via rivers each year.”

She added that instead of investing in quality goods that will last, people often prioritize convenience over durability and consideration of long-term impacts.  Around 300 million tons of plastic are produced each year worldwide, half of which are from single-use items. That’s nearly equivalent to the weight of the entire human population, according to Kendall.

To further educate people about the benefits of recycling, there will be a Recycled Arts Festival in 2022. The event has been held for the past 15 years.

The mission of the festival centers around educating Clark County residents about waste reduction, reuse and recycling, and aims to inspire them to see the things they may otherwise consider trash in a new, beautiful way, said Kendall.

“The festival is able to succeed in its mission by bringing together highly talented artists who create amazing pieces of art by using a minimum of 75% recycled materials,” Kendall said.

The festival will also include entertainment, music, and food. It will be held on June 25 through June 26 at Esther Short Park in Vancouver.

Creative ways to repurpose kitchenware into a basket or potted plant can be found online at
thejoyfulorganizer.com/2014/04/16/gift-basket-ideas. People can also create a terrarium from an old coffee pot by adding in rocks, sand, and air plants, Kendall said. A guide can be viewed online at ecophiles.com/2017/09/09/diy-planters-kitchen-items.

Vintage pitchers can also be created from bakeware, colanders or excess mugs and coffee cups, and can be used to house plants by adding a layer of crushed rock as a drainage layer for containers with no holes, or adding smaller plant containers so water can easily drain out of the larger vessel. Some references can be found online at balconydecoration.com/prepare-your-balcony-for-spring-with-kitchenware-planters/.

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