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The green gem of the North coast

by: PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: SHASTA KEARNS MOORE - Under light fixtures made from reclaimed mason jars,  Joe MacDonald of Vancouver examines discarded and donated books sold in The Refinder, a new space at CARTM. The Manzanita nonprofit could be a model for others around the country trying to reduce waste. Imagine a single place you could take just about anything you didn’t want anymore — trash, recycling, scrap metal, Styrofoam peanuts, broken appliances or even that old, heart-shaped rug from Aunt Tilda — and somebody could find a use for it. 

For the people of the north Oregon coast, there is such a place. 

Tucked away

in the coastal scrubland near Manzanita, CARTM (pronounced cart-um) is a large and enviable depot run by a nonprofit grass-roots

organization that sorts and processes almost all of the local waste. 

Put into Portland terms, it’s like having a ReBuilding Center, a Goodwill and a Metro transfer station all mixed together with a healthy dose of art and community. 

Some see it as a national model for communities striving to achieve “zero waste.”

CARTM employee Sunshine Erdman says she wishes CARTMs were as ubiquitous as McDonald’s restaurants.

“I would love it if it could be like a chain,” Erdman says, as she walks the line helping people sort their recycling. “Wouldn’t that be great if CARTMs were everywhere and everyone knew what it was?” 

Former dump

by: PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: SHASTA KEARNS MOORE - An artful bench at CARTM is made with reclaimed road signs. The Refindery, newly added at the transfer station, provides a place for artists to showcase and sell their recycled art. CARTM is a unique entity borne from an unusual set of people and circumstances. In 1990, a group of volunteers started collecting cardboard and newspapers for recycling. They called themselves the Community Action Recycling Team of Manzanita (hence the name CARTM).

Seven years later, when the local transfer station site became available, the volunteers won the contract from Tillamook County to operate it and dramatically expanded their mission.

Today, the county government considers CARTM a huge asset, not only in waste reduction and transfer, but in economic development, community gathering and even tourism. 

“It’s anything but a dump,” says Tillamook County Commissioner Mark Labhart, noting the artistic items in CARTM’s resale store. “It is a true statement that residents of Manzanita bring their friends and relatives to tour CARTM when they come to visit. It is a destination like the beach is a destination.”

While it’s practically unheard-of for a nonprofit to ink and operate a transfer station franchise agreement, Labhart credits the CARTM team with successfully navigating the unusual arrangement.

County Commissioner Tim Josi agrees, adding that he would recommend the program to other government officials as long as there were dedicated volunteers willing to put in the work.  

“It’s a wonderful program,” Josi says. “It’s amazing what they do in their endeavor to reclaim and recycle discarded material.”

Getting more artsy

by: PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: SHASTA KEARNS MOORE - Julie Fig Yankos artwork at CARTM is made from reclaimed wine foils. Because of its community-centered approach and close relationship with artists, CARTM can recycle wine foils, Styrofoam peanuts and other materials that other facilities wont accept. Over the years, CARTM used grants, fundraisers, trash fees and all the donated refuse to build and improve its operations and its site. The latest and biggest improvement effort, valued at nearly $100,000, ended May 22 with the opening of The Refindery, a new reuse store that includes many recycled art elements, such as Mason jar lighting fixtures, tables made from old cabinets, and an art gallery featuring many items by local reuse artists.

CARTM employs 11 staff members, who are aided by more than 100 volunteers. But it’s effectively run by the entire community, says board member Karen Reddick-Yurka.

“We really depend on our community for support,” says Reddick-Yurka, who often refers to the loads of rubbish brought in as “donations.” Walking around the 9-acre site, she notes, “All of these people that are here come of their own volition. No one is making them be here.”

Whether CARTM patrons are thinking about their green ethics or the green that lines their wallets, truckloads of them come to CARTM every day. Employees stand ready to help them lighten their trash fee by educating them and redirecting their recyclables out of the waste stream.

by: PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: SHASTA KEARNS MOORE - All the decorations and furniture at The Refindery was made with reclaimed items, enabling this partition made of record albums that divides the electronics section from the kitchen supplies.   Wayne Moore, a property manager with Ocean Edge Vacation Rentals, says — while dropping off plastic bottles — that his business would be out a lot of money if it had to haul its trash all the way to Tillamook. 

“We have no idea what we would do (without CARTM),” Moore says. Plus, he adds, “It’s good for the planet. It’s easy. It’s quick.”

CARTM recycles more than 40 types of materials — more than any other facility that organizers have been able to find in the country — all at no charge to the community. That includes plastic grocery bags, which actually cost more to recycle than they are worth. But, CARTM staff and volunteers say that’s all part of their mission toward a zero-waste community.

Accepting unusual items for reuse or recycle is commonplace for CARTM employee Rollie Boggs. While working in an outbuilding that was dismantled and reassembled from the local high school, Boggs says that CARTM staff often witness a strange phenomenon. 

“It’s not karma,” he says. “It’s CARTM-a.” 

Boggs explains how weird things will happen, such as a person comes in requesting vent covers or other unusual items, and some will have been dropped off just that morning. 

Co-worker Josh Simmons agrees. 

“You won’t see anything in your life, and three of them will come in on the same day,” Simmons says, adding that these sorts of things happen all the time. 

Simmons considers this synchronicity the sign of a well-ordered community. 

As with most things at CARTM, Simmons says, “It takes a community all on the same page.”

Shasta Kearns Moore, online

at ShastaKearnsMoore.com, is a writer, blogger and author living in Canby.