Waste Center offers reusable dinnerware

Waste Center volunteers at the Forest Grove Farmers Market, a program of the non-profit Adelante Mujeres, arrive along with vendors before 4 p.m. to set up their booth and prepare for customers—and don’t leave until the market bell rings and everything is packed up at the end of the night.

The volunteers are the consistent force behind the market’s durable-plate program, an effort to reduce waste produced by the event.

Each week, when customers purchase hot foods, they can opt for a ceramic plate with a reusable utensil and cloth napkin, or a disposable product to go. Many choose the route of the ceramic plate, which has helped the market reduce waste from an average of eight bags of trash a week to only one.

Once customers finish eating they can scrape any remaining scraps into a compost bin, drop their cloth napkin into a bucket to be washed, and place their plate and fork into a bin. This bin is carried back and forth from Grendel’s restaurant, which graciously volunteers to wash all the plates and utensils and store them for the rest of the week.

So who are the Waste Center volunteers who devote their Wednesdays for 25 weeks to answer recycling questions and help customers clear their plates?

Meet Cecelia Warner, who has completed over 300 hours of volunteer service in the last three seasons and who first approached the market manager with the idea for this project in 2011. Warner is also the seamstress behind the handmade cloth napkins she washes each week. Then there is Betty Benson, who has been at it for two seasons; Kristen Murray, who is just completing her first year; and Roberta Sommer, who just happened to start last week. “We enjoying reducing waste and feeling like we’re making a difference,” they said.

So how do they know so much about recycling? Each volunteer completed the Master Recycler program through OSU Extension.

This is an eight-week volunteer training where participants learn all about reducing waste, reusing, and recycling. The volunteers are then asked to contribute 30 hours in their community sharing what they’ve learned.

Next season they will be kicking off their “Capturing Caps” effort to collect plastic caps that can’t be recycled curbside in Oregon. Next time you hand in your dirty plate ask about this project and please remember to thank the volunteers.

Also, tip your hat to the folks at Grendel’s who have washed nearly 3,000 plates this season alone!

The market runs from 4 to 7 p.m. Wednesdays through Oct. 30.

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