Success Stories: Local Sustainability: Become a Tillamook County Master Recycler

“I’ve recycled all my life…I’m an avid recycler… I recycle EVERYTHING” How many of us have said any of those or similar expressions? If you have, you may consider joining the team of Tillamook County Master Recyclers.

Master Recyclers help with State-wide programs and events.
Master Recyclers help with State-wide programs and events.

With its first class in 2014, Tillamook County became the 13th county in Oregon to establish a Master Recyclers program.
“Our current list of 18 Master Recyclers include young and not-as-young, employed and retired, male and female, and those living in all areas of the county” states Sue Owens, Solid Waste Outreach and Education Coordinator, who is also the Master Recycler Coordinator. “These volunteers have been a real asset to our department outreach and wonderful people to get to know and work with.” With the Solid Waste Program Manager, David McCall being the only full time employee, the rest of the department consists of part time employees. “The success of recycling in Tillamook County relies heavily on the volunteer contributions of the Master Recyclers,” said McCall.

Master Recyclers can work with school children.
Master Recyclers can work with school children.

“Our Master Recyclers attend a 20 hour course, held over three days where they learn more about recycling and materials management than most of them expect,” Owens notes. “We bring in out-of-town and local specialists and present a tremendous amount of information not just on a global scale, but we also bring it home to what is happening here, in Tillamook County.” Master Recycler students can expect to learn more about what is in our waste stream, what is being done to divert it and how they can “make a difference in their neighborhood.” Course topics include but are not limited to: waste composition,       E-waste, household hazardous waste, waste reduction and prevention, construction debris, composting and microplastics. During the 20 hour class, students have hands on training as well as several field trips. Students from the first course are still involved, so much so that some even help teach the new courses.
Graduates from the program can find themselves volunteering for an array of opportunities. In the few years the program has been established in Tillamook County, over 500 hours of volunteer time has been logged. Not everyone is comfortable in every volunteer environment,” Owens acknowledges, “so we try to keep a wide assortment of opportunities out there.” Most activities are established, such as volunteering at the County Fair, or Home and Garden Show, but the door is open for those who want to share their gifts and talents in innovative ways. One of the newer graduates built a nice backyard composter made from pallets for the Home and Garden raffle. Another designed a clever hat to generate discussions in the classrooms. “Each volunteer has a unique set of strengths and interests,” Owens notes, “We try to match those to the opportunities available.”
The primary mandate given to the Master Recyclers is to be a spokesperson in their circle of influence. “We ask the graduates to share their knowledge and enthusiasm with their friends and family,” Owens notes, “If you are working out at the YMCA, playing cards with friends, or shopping at the grocery store, you interact with people and the best way to share the message of recycling and environmental stewardship is word-of-mouth.”

Field trips are big part of the Master Recycler class.
Field trips are big part of the Master Recycler class.

The current membership roster includes the following graduates: Anna Travers, Bob Jeans, Karen Reddick-Yurka, Maria Prince, Terri Stevens, Peggy Weitman, Emily Dana, Stephanie Lewis, Pam Shabatura, JoAnne Woelfle, Dawn Beyer, John Goertzen, Linda Kozlowski, Anne Osborn-Coopersmith, Wendy Ryan, Stephanie Welch, Vic Starostka, and Roger Miller. Owens encourages readers to visit with these people about the program and how it has impacted their lives.

Master Recyclers marched in the 2016 Dairy parade.
Master Recyclers marched in the 2016 Dairy parade.

Virtually everyone who has taken the course has responded they were pleased with the class and glad they invested their time and energy into it. Master Recycler John Goertzen stated, “I joined the Master Recyclers to continue my effects of a lifetime.” Another participant commented, “This was a fascinating weekend. Anyone interested in the realities and possibilities of recycling in Tillamook County should take it!”
Originally held in Central Tillamook County, collaboration with Tillamook Bay Community College has allowed the course to be more easily offered in all areas of the county.  The next class will be held Wednesday through Friday, September 28-30, 2016 at the TBCC central campus. For more information, contact Owens at 503.842.3419 x 3104 or email at sowens@co.tillamook.or.us. You may also register for the class by clicking on the MASTER RECYCLERS tab on our website at  www.co.tillamook.or.us/gov/SolidWaste.





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