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Lending a plate to help save the planet

Inspired by the ghastly sight of dumpsters overflowing with plastic dinnerware after weddings, meetings, concerts and parties, two Ashland Master Recyclers have started a “dish library” where, for free, you can pick up full dinner place settings (they have 100), as long as you return them all washed and ready to loan again.

You heard right: it’s free — you just go to Southern Oregon Master Recyclers in Action website (SOMRA.org) and describe your gig. A volunteer will call you back and let you know if it can happen. If so, you get the code to enter their tiny cottage at Ashland Recycling Center on Water Street, then go and grab however many lovely settings of near-indestructible Corelle ware, napkins, table cloths, wine or champagne glasses and, when done, drop them off and, best of all, you are one proud Zero Waste friend of the planet, not adding to the landfill or the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

Master Recyclers Sharon Anderson and Bob Altaras got the idea from a lone recycling warrior, Cheryl Boerger of Mount Shasta, founder of “Plates for People and the Planet,” went to visit her and fell in love with the idea of doing something on their own initiative — no grants of city councils involved — and thus helping slow the planet-choking tide of plastic, single-use junk.

“It feels good. It’s an extension of the sharing economy we’re moving into, like the co-op housing. We’re sharing plates and forks,” says Altaras. “It makes sense to share tools.”

With a smile, he says they decided to call it LMAP (Lend Me a Plate). Right now, it’s for Ashland and Talent.

“So, if you’re having an event, you get to save some money, reduce the use of non-disposable resources and you are being, as we say, reduce-able and reusable.”

Of course, it does take money to make LMAP run and they seem confident cash will flow in as they need to buy new hardware.


Altaras and Anderson, graduates of the basic Jackson County Master Recycler program, started the SOMRA offshoot, which performs commercial and residential waste reduction audits. Their first customer was the Ashland Independent Film Festival.

LMAP, they believe, is a model for the future, where the objective is to work together for a sustainable world, with no one getting awards for it. They note that their role model, Cheryl Borger, kept a quarter million disposable things out of landfills in her first five years and won the ETown Achievement Award for Community Service.

Alturas and Anderson are on that same path, but not shooting for awards. They need volunteers (one covers the shed for a month) and, right now, they need $250 for 100 stainless steel cups.

Contact SOMRA, find more information and make donations at its website, SOMRA.org.

John Darling is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.

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