If you go

What: GoCleanEnergy Conference

When: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday

Where: Aspen Hall, 18920 NW Shevlin Park Road, Bend

Cost: $49, register at www.gocleanenergy.org

With the specter of massive changes to recycling looming on the horizon, a couple of Central Oregon breweries have drastically scaled back their use of plastics and other disposable products.

Representatives from Worthy Brewing and Sunriver Brewing will present at a Bend-based environmental conference Friday, speaking about ways they’ve been able to curb waste.

“If a business on the scale of Worthy can do it, then really anyone in Bend can do it,” said Kyle Nicholson, chef at the northeast Bend brewery.

On Friday, 350 Deschutes will host the GoCleanEnergy Conference, which will bring around 25 speakers and up to 100 people to Aspen Hall in Shevlin Park, said Diane Hodiak, executive director of the environmental nonprofit.

Hodiak said one of the focuses of the conference is raising awareness about how businesses can reduce waste, with an eye toward adjusting to changes in how China processes American recyclables. Those changes are still being felt in Oregon and across the country.

“We’re using a lot of energy. We’re using a lot of materials that we don’t always get the most out of,” she said.

China, which had once been the largest destination for mixed recycling in the United States, announced last summer that it would stop accepting post-consumer plastics or mixed paper in 2018 and dramatically restrict the amount of contamination it would accept in imported recyclables. The changes left cities and counties in Oregon and beyond scrambling for new markets — either foreign or domestic — to fill the void.

Julie Miller, communications specialist for the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, said 23 recycling service providers across the state have received permission from the agency to dispose of more than 10,000 tons of material that had once been recycled.

While state and local organizations are still searching for markets that can process the material, one option is reducing the amount of materials, particularly plastic, that is disposed of in the first place. Hodiak said 350 Deschutes was already planning a conference — its second, following one held in Bend in 2016 — but she added that the issues with China pushed recycling to the forefront.

Worthy has debuted a laundry list of ways to cut down on materials since the beginning of the year, Nicholson said. The brewery has subbed out plastics for plant-based compostable products produced by Portland-based company Stalk Market. Nicholson added that the brewery sends its food waste and spent grain to local ranches to avoid wasting it.

“It’s really become part of the culture at Worthy,” he said.

Meanwhile, Sunriver Brewing eliminated straws at its pub on NW Galveston Avenue earlier this year and is phasing them out its Sunriver pub, said Ashley Hammond, Galveston pub manager and sustainability coordinator for the brewery.

While the brewery has received a couple of complaints about doing away with straws, she said positive comments have outweighed the negative ones. Hammond added that the brewery has also eliminated to-go bags and plastic silverware, and is hoping to reduce single-use plastics entirely by the end of the year.

“When you take those small steps toward being green, it really starts to snowball,” she said.

— Reporter: 541-617-7818, shamway@bendbulletin.com

20732728