Zero Waste Q & A: Ask a Master Recycler

Our 1st and 2nd Grade classes are having a party in the park for about 85 people. We want to keep our waste to a minimum. I went to Down to Earth and the green store next to it to look for compostable cold cups and neither had them. Do you know of any local resources for this item? And is your bins and dishware program open to anybody? 

Great questions. You can find compostable cold cups at Cash and Carry on Bertelsen in W Eugene but you will not be able to compost these in your home system. If you use compostable hot cups you will be able to compost them at home. If you (or Rexius) are not going to compost the cups then compostable is not a better choice than other paper or plastic cups that are bound for the trash. Disposable cups (plastic or paper) are not recyclable.  Go to: to find comprehensive information about the use of compostable plastics in our area.

The Lane County Master Recycler Program event bin and dishware loan program is open to anyone in Lane County on a first come, first served basis. Private events are ok.  Glassware is available for rent from party supply businesses. You could probably purchase glassware at thrift stores such as Goodwill or St Vincent de Paul for the about the same or less than the cost of renting.

General Information about the Recycle Bin and Dishware Loan Program:

Pick up and Return: Pick up and return times are generally between 8:30am and 5:30pm Monday through Friday. Go to: to view a Google Map of our location.

Returning equipment in “ready to use” condition and arranging specific dates and approximate times (morning or afternoon for example) for pick up and returns with Kelly are two ways you can help insure that this remains a free program Questions? Please email or call. Thank you for your commitment to producing a zero waste event-Kel

Reusable Dishware: We have 100 place settings of dishware. These are mismatched items primarily from thrift stores and garage sales. You may have seen this dishware at a church breakfast, wedding, school function or company picnic. Go to: to view photos of these items on our webpage.

4 kits of 25 place settings each include:

  • plastic large plate
  • small plate
  • bowl
  • cold beverage cup
  • metal fork-knife-spoon
  • cloth napkin

The dishes are stored in large plastic totes. 100 small plastic coffee cups are also available in a separate tote. Reservations are first come, first served. There is no fee.  Borrowers are responsible for returning dishes and napkins on time, clean and ready to use again. There is no fee. Borrowers are responsible for replacing missing or broken items.

 Recycle and Compost Bins: We have 90 pair of recycle and compost bins. These are the same bins you will see at the Eugene Celebration, Art and the Vineyard, national and international track meets at Hayward Field, the Summer Solstice Ultimate Frisbee tournament, the Eugene Marathon and the Lane County Fair. See webpage to view these items. Reservations are first come, first served. There is no fee. Borrowers are responsible for replacement cost of $50 per compost or recycle bin if lost, stolen or damaged. Please return bins in clean condition. Do not permanently alter signs. Bin liners are also provided at no cost.

Waste Bins

Events are responsible for the disposal of trash, recycling and compost. Only one local option exists for the disposal of compostable cups and utensils at this time. That is Rexius Sustainable Solutions. Arrangements need to be made in advance with Rexius if they are going to accept your compostable mix.

Usage Data:

In 2011 Lane County’s recycle and compost bins were used by 94 events serving more than 420,000 guests. Lane County has provided this free program for over 5 years. Recently, at least one local hauler is now becoming more directly involved with the internal recycling process at some of the large events that borrowed our bins in recent years such as the Lane County Fair and the Olympic Trials.

In 2011 the dishware was used by 50 events serving more than 4800 guests of weddings, school groups, neighborhood associations, church gatherings, music events and business events.Several small mutual benefit organizations have begun creating reusable dishware kits of their own. Some churches and schools are restocking the kitchen cupboards with these items.

As you may know, organic matter (paper, wood, food) is the largest percentage of the material disposed as trash. Paper dishware (plates, napkins, paper towels) is not recyclable. Plastic utensils are not recyclable. Food waste is a large portion of that organic material going into the landfill each year. Both paper and food waste create methane which contributes to climate change. By using real dishes, you and your guests are helping to reduce the effects of climate change and by diverting food scraps to chicken keepers, you are diverting organic material from away from the landfill and toward local food production.

Kelly Bell, Lane County Master Recycler Program



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