Presentation: Don’t Waste Durham


Introduced by Rotarian, Elisabeth Wiener, Crystal Dreisbach, Founder & Executive Director of Don’t Waste Durham, told us that she was born in Coeur d’ Alene, Idaho but has fallen in love with Durham since moving here. She took us on an energizing and informative ride through her six year old non-profit devoted to “preventing trash at its source.” 

 Dreisbach explained that while the goal of recycling is commendable there are a number of problems with it. All efforts at reducing waste require changes in behavior and people need an incentive to change their behavior. She mentioned the bottle deposits collected in certain parts of the country and the fact that in those areas a person rarely sees bottles of any kind along roadsides. She startled us with the fact that only 9% of recyclable items are actually recycled and that all those items are down-cycled. That means that they are not reused but broken down. She also told us that Durham’s trash travels nearly 100 miles to its final disposal site. 

Because Durham’s landfill was closed some time ago, our trash takes this long and expensive trip to become the problem of our neighbors in Sampson County. Both environmental and equity issues abound in this practice. 

 Dreisbach’s organization’s actions on a number of fronts aim to reduce waste at the source. Perhaps the best-known part of their operation, due to its presentation about a year ago on the PBS Newshour, is Green to Go. The plan targets styrofoam and other single use containers that are used by Restaurants and other venders for customers taking food home. Green to Go uses a container that can be returned after use, washed, sterilized and made available for use by another customer. She said that they currently have 775 subscribers and 26 restaurants and stores that use the containers.  

 There is a great deal of interest in the practices being used here.  Dreisbach indicated that they have had inquiries from 150 cities around the world who would like help in setting up their own reuse and trash prevention plans with Don’t Waste Durham’s help. They are also getting substantial interest in the corporate world. They are currently candidates for a Pilot Test run through a grant funded by companies that include Cisco and Sunoco among others. In addition, they have been approached by Whole Foods to look into a concept of reuse in their markets. 

 Dreisbach and her associates are looking at a range of ventures beyond “Green to Go” to help prevent trash at the source. They have a Sustainable Food Truck Certification program that helps operators reduce food waste and are engaged with agencies around Durham to make potentially wasted food available for hungry people as well as curbing food waste in schools.  

 There is no doubt that this organization is making a change in people’s habits in Durham and the world.  More information is available on their website: 

Submitted by – Doug Butler  



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