Lane County Department of Public Works Master Recycler Coordinator Kelly Bell stands by the garbage pit at the Lane County Waste Management Division on East 17th Street.
Photo: Brett Stanley
Lane County Department of Public Works Master Recycler Coordinator Kelly Bell stands by the garbage pit at the Lane County Waste Management Division on East 17th Street.Photo: Brett Stanley

Lane County Department of Public Works Master Recycler Coordinator
Kelly Bell stands by the garbage pit at the Lane County Waste Management Division on East 17th Street.
Photo: Brett Stanley

In the 13 years since the Master Recycler program has been in Eugene, green has gone viral.

The program has turned 700 volunteers into knowledgable recyclers since moving from Portland to the Eugene-Springfield area. In 2012, volunteers from the program helped the annual Whiteaker Thanksgiving community dinner reduce the utensils thrown away to less than one cubic yard. Before the Master Recycler program became involved, volunteers from the dinner were tossing an equivalent of 4 cubic yards.

“We want to create knowledgeable core groups of volunteers,” Master Recycler coordinator Kelly Bell said. “They go out to the community and share the information they learned with others.”

The Master Recycler program was established in Portland in 1990, then moved to the Eugene-Springfield area in 2000. They are headquartered at the Lane County Waste Management Division on East 17th Street.

The classes aim to educate residents and businesses on how to reduce, reuse, recycle and rethink waste habits.

”I learned what a big difference an individual can make diverting waste from the landfill,” BJ Hurwich, a 2006 Master Recycler alumnus, said

Hurwich managed recycling for the 2008 Olympics Track and Field trials in Eugene. She instituted event recycling for Project Homeless Connect and the Whiteaker Community Dinner.

The program operates in a different city each term, and runs like a normal college-level class with a three-hour lecture in a Q&A format. The classes are nine weeks long per term. In 2008, the first year the program traveled to a new city, organizers found a classroom at Lane’s Cottage Grove campus.

They have worked with other rural cities, including Florence, Creswell and Junction City. Cities have to lobby to be chosen because organizers choose the city where residents show the most interest in their services. Organizers are considering holding the spring class in either Oakridge, the McKenzie River area or — for the third time — Florence.

“It isn’t as straightforward as it (seems). The training gave me a different perspective of what you can live without, using items that are going to last a long time,” Carolyn Stein, a 2008 Master Recycler alumnus, said.

Stein went on to become a Program Manager of BRING’s RE:think Business program, which is a free onsite consulting service for businesses in Lane County.

“I learned a lot about how to recycle different things and where they can be recycled. A lot of organizations go to Kelly to make events more green,” Hurwich said.

Lane has also enlisted the services of the Master Recycler program. When Lane was first starting its cafeteria compost collection, they needed Master Recycler volunteers to come out and stand around a kiosk and educate folks as the process was getting off the ground

The way that the Master Recycle program gets its name out there is mainly by radio. They don’t want to use TV or newspaper ads for classes because it would raise a unique problem.

“We haven’t advertised for the fall class and for some reason we were under enrolled a month out,” Kelly said. “We did one press release from The Register-Guard, and I got 50 hits from that, and it filled the fall and winter classes. We couldn’t accommodate as many people as we get if we did any more advertising.”

Lane students in energy management programs could get credit for participating in this program.

“(Presenters) are experts in their respective fields from governments to private businesses and nonprofit organizations,” Kelly said.