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Written by K.M. Collins

Recycling: Initiatives Aim to Reduce Bend’s Environmental Impact

Local Plastic

Single-use plastic is so last century, right? Director of Sustainability at Hayden Homes Amphitheater, Cassidy Cushing, thinks so too. Last year alone, Cushing oversaw efforts which eliminated the use of 281,000 plastic water bottles. This number was calculated through measuring water usage at amphitheater water bottle refill stations.

Environmental Center
Photo courtesy of the Environmental Center

In fact, single-use plastic bottles are not available anywhere in the venue. “We do not sell or allow our vendors to sell plastic bottles or utensils. All cups and service ware are required to be compostable or reusable items, and no straws are allowed. We also refrain from using toothpicks or fruit skewers in our cocktails as they make scooping food out of the trash a bit more difficult and painful!” explained Cushing. Why would Cushing and staff be scooping food out of the trash? Because that is how committed they are to recycling. 

After concerts, Cushing and her team “dumpster dive” or look over the contents of each and every garbage bag with a fine tooth comb to be sure waste products are sent to proper recycle streams. Plastic bags are cleaned, dried and then taken to a facility to be reused. Beverage distributors are given back six-pack rings to reuse during packaging. Some trash is even made into art. 

Cushing and Hayden Homes Amphitheater aren’t the only organizations in Bend catching the recycling craze. Cushing names The Environmental Center as a longtime Bend-centered organization that continually creates impacting programming around local recycling and sustainability efforts. 

Udara Abeysekera Bickett, program manager for the Rethink Waste Project at The Environmental Center, mentions one major challenge to recycling efforts is that infrastructure is different across the state (and county) lines—meaning that what is collected for recycling in Bend is different from what is collected in Madras, Prineville, Portland or Newport. “It’s important to learn to recycle correctly across communities, especially when traveling,” she said. Fortunately, the Rethink Waste Project has published a do’s and don’ts guide to recycling available at RethinkWasteProject.org.

Local Plastic
Abby Torchio, co-owner of Local Plastic, shows the result of six-pack beer holders after they were ground into plastic bits. Photo by Ely Roberts.

Recent efforts by Rethink Waste Project to address recycling gaps include partnering with Visit Central Oregon and lodging sites, including resorts, hotels and Airbnb, to implement recycling infrastructure and education that supports tourists to rethink waste; collaborating with Housing Works properties to implement recycling infrastructure and education that supports multi-family housing communities, developing and implementing large event sorting station plans; and partnering with Deschutes Brewery, Crater Lake Spirits and several other local beverage manufacturers to collect plastic film for recycling. 

Another local and innovative recycling initiative is Local Plastic, which launched in 2019, and is a spin off of The Broomsmen—an event recycling-solutions team for weddings and gatherings of all kinds. “We always asked ourselves, ‘Where is all this waste going? Is it actually going to get recycled into a new product or just shuffled around in a charade of globalized supply chains?’ We realized we needed to utilize the plastic we collected to create a product in-house locally here in Bend,” explained Founder Philip Torchio. 

Isolated in Central Oregon from major municipalities where recycled plastic markets exist, Local Plastic emerged from a desire to close the loop on the waste collected through The Broomsmen. Local Plastic was born to collect and manufacture locally discarded plastics into beautiful four-by-eight-foot sheet products. 

In years to come, Torchio hopes Bend residents will think twice before throwing their plastic away. “We are placing a high value on your waste and view it as a manufacturing resource of the future. This discarded waste will create jobs and prosperity for our local community,” he said.

Cushing thinks support for recycling initiatives from residents, to travelers, to decision makers and corporate higher-ups is ever present in Bend in part because, “Bend is such a beautiful place. The city makes it easy to recycle or use the proper waste stream by providing receptacles, signage and ample reusable products to mitigate the production of unnecessary resources.”

During her 12 plus years of dumpster diving on behalf of Hayden Homes Amphitheater, Cushing noted, “We have a responsibility to preserve the live music experience for generations to come, and an opportunity to use our platform to inspire global environmental action.” This is what it means to be a Bendite.   

Give a Helping Hand

Keep Central Oregon Clean, 

Cave Clean Up, May 13. 

See wanderlusttours.com.

Public Land Clean Up, June 10.
See plsbend.org.  

Deschutes River Cleanup, July 29.
See upperdeschuteswatershedcouncil.org.  

Read more about our vibrant Central Oregon community here.

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