Zero Heroes

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Zero Heroes pride themselves on the tiny amount of trash they generate.

CARTM Executive Deirctor, Jan Hamilton, and "Zero Hero" Abby Spotskey

Jan Hamilton, CARTM Executive Director, hands Abby Spotskey, Nehalem Zero Hero, a biodegradable bag which will hold $3 worth of trash. Photo by Lorraine Ortiz.

Manzanita—Many in the Nehalem Bay Community pride themselves on the tiny amount of household trash they generate each week—and most have been recycling for 25 years or more.

These people are called “Zero Heroes” by the staff at CARTM because they practice principles that help further their mission of leading the community to zero waste.

“Our Zero Heroes arrive at CARTM with tiny bags of trash,” said CARTM’s director Jan Hamilton.  “We love knowing those households are generating less and less trash.  We even created a special measuring device just for them that would assess trash fees down to twenty-five cents.”

CARTM’s effort has been to reward people for doing the right thing—that is by making recycling free and charging for trash. CARTM relies on revenue from trash to help offset the costs associated with recycling. This model is literally putting CARTM out of business.   By encouraging the community to do the right thing for the environment, people are bringing in less and less trash and more and more recycling resulting in overhead and expenses remaining steady to keep the service alive, as the income continues to decrease.

Historically, CARTM has prided itself on operating without imposing a minimum fee for trash, (the other two transfer stations in Tillamook County charge a $17 minimum) but driven by the steep downward trend in trash revenues, beginning June 1, CARTM instituted the first ever $3 minimum fee for dumping trash.

“We are so proud of our zero heros, and their tiny bags of trash,” said Hamilton.  “It is the norm for transfer stations to charge a minimum but the idea of a minimum at CARTM is taking some getting used to by our community,” said Hamilton.

Sharon Daye of Nehalem has been recycling for over 25 years and at age 76 appreciated being able to bring her small amounts of trash to CARTM each week, both for the economy and so she wouldn’t have to lift heavy loads.

“I recycle everything I possibly can,” said Daye.  “I’ve been coming to CARTM for 11 years and have seen it improve 100% over the years.  I’ve just returned from a trip back east and they have nothing like CARTM—we are way ahead of them.”

Daye says that even with the new minimum, she has no intention of going to curbside garbage because of the high monthly charge.

“I’m going to have to change the way I do things.  I’ll probably get a garbage can to put my smaller bags in to take to CARTM.  $3 per bag isn’t that much to pay.”

Other Zero Heroes, like Jim and Bonnie Johnson and Steve and Sherri Davis of Nehalem, also recycle or compost everything they can and also take small amounts of trash to CARTM.

The Davis’s, who relocated from Battleground, Washington, said that they have never found another organization to compare to CARTM’s services or having the convenience of the resale store so close by to purchase household items and fittings for projects.

The Johnsons said that although they would typically bring in twenty-five cent bags of trash they would always donate more than that on their periodic trips to CARTM and underscored that CARTM “is a great service.”

Other, more shy Zero Heroes who did not want their names used in the press, said that the $3 minimum is making them up the ante on their already strong recycling habits.

CARTM is offering a free biodegradable bag in exchange for one that when filled is worth $3 of trash. These bags, unlike regular plastic bags that take  hundreds or up to a 1000 years to decompose, will decompose in a landfill in 12 -24 months.  The bags are a trial study to see if they are sturdy enough to not rip or tear in transport.

CARTM’s staff is reporting that some people are already changing their habits and many are using the new $3 bags.

“We trust our community to come up with innovative household systems and strategies in response to recycling technology and industry changes,” said Hamilton. “We’re watching for innovative systems people have created, and passing along that information to our other customers. We are always looking to our community to help us learn, grow and change for the better.”

Larry Kizer of Neahkahnie doesn’t like to see a minimum as he feels it detracts from CARTM’s zero waste mission, but he understands the reason for it and the need for it.

“I like the idea of the $3 bag of trash—it’s a great idea,” said Kizer.  “I am a CARTM regular and recycle at least three times a month.”

Other shy Zero Heroes talked about the problem of having food waste attracting pests in residential areas and hope that CARTM begins a composting program to deal with this issue.

“CARTM is continuing to listen to our customers and to work with these issues,” said Hamilton.  “Having to create a $3 minimum was in direct response to our community being such great recyclers.  It seems counter intuitive to institute a minimum—but the fact is trash is one of our revenue streams and in order for CARTM to continue to grow and thrive as the great service our community counts on we have to watch that bottom line.”

“Our Zero Heroes are our inspiration—and Zero Waste is the ultimate bottom line.”