Updated: Jan 3
“Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope.” -Robert F Kennedy
quicklyWe all know that not all heroes wear capes. Many people might not even consider that their actions would elevate them to a pedestal of a hero in our community. These community members deserve to, at the very least, have their efforts and community engagement shared; their stories are inspiring and will show that a small group of people, or even just an individual, can make a massive difference in their community and the world at large. The first group that I would like to shine a line on and expose to our recyclers and plastic reducers. Citizens for Responsible Use of Plastic (CRUP) is a loose group of Lane County residents formed in 2018. These community members are concerned about the proliferation of single-use plastics in Eugene and Lane County. The group comprises six community members, including Eugene City Councilor Emily Simple. Jim Flynn is the founder and was quickly followed by Karyn Kaplan and Cynthia Matherly. CRUP’s primary mission is to help reduce the wasteful use of disposable to-go plastics. This mission was expanded to include advocating for a large event ordinance requiring significant events to design a waste management plan—before the 2022 World Athletics Championship. Since this group has a strong voice, I sent a list of questions and would like to use their direct response to each question for this article.
What are some memorable advocacy campaigns for CRUP?
1. Our most memorable campaign was working on (and getting passed) a polystyrene food ware ban in Eugene. We tried to push it in the county as well, but after working on it for three years, the county made it clear that they were not going to pursue it.
We got pretty far in that the County Commission sent us to the Lane County Health Advisory Board. We worked with them for three months, and they recommended a complete county ban. Sadly, the county's lobbyists pushed against us as it costs the county money and time to implement laws, and they are stretched to the max-understandable. The good news is that with the Eugene ban, the two largest cities in Lane County have banned polystyrene (Styrofoam) food containers.
3. We got the City of Springfield to add compost to yard debris collection.
4. We have pushed the City to adopt a California-type ordinance to mandate that all large events (over 2000) have a waste reduction and recovery plan. Though this didn't go through, we made a lot of noise, and the World Championships implemented a state-of-the-art waste management program, including reusable dishes and utensils.
What are some of the challenges CRUP has experienced?
Trying to bring attention to these issues at this time, is very difficult. There are so many significant issues faced by the city and county that there isn't bandwidth or the urgency compared to issues like homelessness, COVID, renter's rights, climate change etc.....
Our excellent strength has been having a city councilor attend our meetings and try and advocate for our issues. Councilor Semple attends every meeting and has been diligent about bringing these issues to the city council. With that, she could have the board hold a work session on polystyrene and the upon-request ordinances which resulted in the board passing laws. She advocated for a work session on significant events, but the city staff demonstrated that they provide resources to events, so the city council felt that was enough.
Some other challenges have been the lack of city staff and changeovers. We were working with the Dept. Manager for Waste Reduction, who had mentioned that the city was embarking on a large-scale educational campaign on waste reduction to the public. That employee left the city, we hopefully have a city staffer attend our next meeting to address this proposed action.
We are a small group and don't have enough of a voice on these issues as it's difficult to be heard unless there are countless advocates for these issues. The City and the County also try to defer to the State to make these broader rules. Though we would love the State to take up these issues, getting momentum on the state level has been difficult. Hopefully, the legislature will re-access the state-wide polystyrene ban in the next session.
The wheels of progress turn slowly. Plastics are a ubiquitous problem, and it would be great to get more momentum on charging for refillable, implementing a large events waste plan mandate, and a real ETHICAL PLASTICS recovery system (that includes Ecogeneration). The City and County are focused on climate change, and seems like food waste is the current focus. That being said, many plastics are directly related to food waste. Additionally, with significant events, we tried to make the case that these large events are massive producers of food waste and tied in with a waste plan requirement; large events could help reduce GHG in our area.
What is something CRUP would highlight?
We have gotten some things done and are continuing to generate ways to engage, stay current, and be educated. Though we have had some accomplishments, having a presence and asking questions makes a difference.
We are so happy about the Modernization work in the State and hope it leads to more robust waste reduction goals and actions.
Anything else that you would like to add?
NEVER GIVE UP! We thought we couldn't do anything else, but we are still staying viable and trying to keep being productive and re-evaluate how we can continue to be helpful. We have ideas about going to neighborhood groups and will continue writing letters to the editors and having guest speakers. We are open to helping others who do this vital work.
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