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Learning to "Waste Not, Want Not" in Oregon

You'll never again look at the contents of your blue recycle bin in quite the same way after taking a Master Recycler course. Credit: Chris Thomas
You'll never again look at the contents of your blue recycle bin in quite the same way after taking a Master Recycler course. Credit: Chris Thomas
September 28, 2015

SALEM, Ore. – The old saying "waste not, want not" takes on a whole new meaning for Oregonians who sign up for a Master Recycler course.

If you've ever wondered what happens to the trash you toss out or the contents of those blue curbside recycling bins, there are eight Master Recycler programs around the state, covering all aspects of solid waste management.

Bailey Payne, who supervises the program in Marion County, says the classroom time isn't what attracts most participants.

"About 30 different industry experts come in and give us presentations, but roughly half the class is going out on field trips – compost facilities, the material recovery facility, a paper mill,” he explains. “We go to a sustainable community here in Salem."

Payne says individuals take the course, companies send their workers and job seekers take it to add to their resumes.

Marion County's classes run one day a week for five weeks. The cost is $25, and participants commit to 30 hours of volunteer time to help get the word out about the importance of recycling.

One Salem resident who can truly claim the title of Master Recycler is Ed Kale. He's a retiree who took the course years ago and is retaking it now. He also has spent more than 100 hours as a volunteer.

"I hate to see things wasted, thrown away – you know, stuck in a landfill,” he says. “If I could reuse it or pass it on to somebody, somehow make another use out of it rather than throwing it away, I've always done that."

Kale calls the course a real eye-opener that will make anyone think twice about what, and how much, he or she puts into his or her trash bins.

"They just think it ends there and it goes into a happy place or something,” he says. “But there's so many sorting processes involved in getting some of that stuff to go where it needs to."

The Association of Oregon Recyclers also offers Recycling 101 – a self-paced, online course through Oregon State University – for those who can't attend classes in person.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR