By Vickie Aldous
for the Mail Tribune
One of Ashland’s busiest restaurants sends as much trash to the landfill each week as a typical American family.
Standing Stone Brewing Co. on Oak Street has only one 90-gallon garbage can in a back alley to hold regular trash. That trash can is usually only half full when it gets dumped each week, said Brandon Schilling, the restaurant’s waste and farm manager.
All the other waste produced by the restaurant — from drinking straws to the leftovers scraped off customers’ plates — is composted, recycled or fed to a flock of Standing Stone’s free range chickens.
Before Standing Stone stepped up its garbage-control efforts, it had three 90-gallon trash cans that were each dumped three times a week, with the trash sent to the landfill, Schilling said.
“We’ve brought our garbage bill down from $256 a month to $56 a month,” he said.
Schilling said it does take time and effort to deal with garbage responsibly.
Everyone at Standing Stone, from servers to chefs to dishwashers, had to be trained to sort out trash into color-coded buckets.
Schilling said it took him about a year and a half to fine-tune the restaurant’s sorting system and get all the employees to use it properly. He still regularly looks through the different trash containers to check for improperly sorted items.
“People get defensive. You have to make it easy and encourage people. You have to make it fun,” said Schilling.
Kitchen produce trimmings and spent grain from beer-brewing feed a flock of chickens that lives on Standing Stone’s farm, off Eagle Mill Road in the hills northeast of town. The chickens share the farm with sheep, a goat, Black Angus cattle and three Anatolian shepherd dogs that live on the land full time.
Originating in Turkey, independent-minded Anatolian shepherds were bred to watch over flocks without human help and to take on predators such as wolves.
Standing Stone has shifted to “bioware” — biodegradable paper drinking straws, drink coasters and paper towels that are chipped and put into compost piles on the farm. Scrapings off customers’ plates also go into compost piles.
Employees sort out hard and soft plastics, which are stored in the back alley and picked up by Allied Environmental Services from White City.
Recology Ashland Sanitary Service, which provides garbage and recycling services to businesses and homes in Ashland, takes away regular recyclables such as empty milk jugs and paper.
Recology’s customers have been feeling a financial pinch since rates went up in January. Most residential users saw 7.5 percent rate increases, but businesses that use large commercial bins saw increases of up to 27.8 percent. Recology previously had offered deep-volume discounts to businesses that produce the most trash.
The company blames factors such as high gas prices and, ironically, recycling for its financial woes. As Ashland customers recycle more, Recology collects less money for garbage collection.
But faced with rising garbage rates, more Ashland businesses may decide to step up their employee training on waste management.
Standing Stone server Meg Dias said Schilling and the restaurant’s owners, Alex and Danielle Amarotico, have impressed upon everyone the importance of sorting the garbage and recyclables.
The restaurant has a long history of embracing environmentally friendly practices.
“Brandon’s super enthusiastic about it. It’s contagious. There’s a learning curve. We all kind of learned together,” Dias said as she bent over a row of color-coded buckets, sorting trash into the correct containers.
Schilling said sorting has become just another part of the job for the employees, and is less time-intensive than many tasks, like rolling silverware into napkins for customers’ tables.
“The more you do it, the easier it becomes,” he said.
For more information on Standing Stone’s waste-management efforts and its other sustainability initiatives, visit standingstonebrewing.com/.
Vickie Aldous is a reporter for the Ashland Daily Tidings. She can be reached at 541-479-8199 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
This story originally appeared in Medford Mail Tribune.