Big Step, Smaller Footprints

Recycling program teaches the basics of self-suffieciency
Len Dombras, 89, recycles cardboard at Rogue Disposal and Recycling Wednesday. The Jackson County Recycling Partnership hopes more residents will recycle as word gets out about the benefits through its annual master recycling classes.

When Mark Rasmussen recycles in his Shady Cove home, don't be surprised if you hear him humming a catchy little tune.

"I love this class — I'm on the brink,

Master Recycler Program

There is a Feb. 3 deadline for applying for this year's master recycler program sponsored by the Jackson County Recycling Partnership.

The first class set for March 7. Classes will be from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesdays, March 7 through May 23, at the Jackson County Expo Mace Building.

Applications are available online at www.jcmasterrecyclers.org. Class fees are $85 for individuals and $185 for business representatives. For more information, call Jackson County Recycling Partnership at 541-494-5488.

Class participants will learn everything from recycling to waste prevention. Field trips will include visits to Dry Creek landfill, composting facilities, a waste-to-energy plant and the Medford wastewater treatment plant.

Of putting a worm bin under my sink.

And feeding those wigglers all my veggie wastes," it goes.

OK, so it may not reach the Top 10 list of pop songs, but Rasmussen, a 2011 graduate of the master recycling class offered by the Jackson County Recycling Partnership, figures the song written by several of the class members is a recycling hit.

"We've reduced our (garbage) footprint by 50 percent and, yes, we do have a worm bin in our house now," said Rasmussen, who shares the house with his wife, Linda, and the worm bin.

Since taking the class, which ended late last spring, Rasmussen, 48, who has a small repair business, has become an avid ambassador for recycling.

"Those worms make the best compost — it's amazing, just tons and tons of beneficial microbes in there," he said.

But the Rasmussens don't stop at merely recycling at home.

"You save monetarily through precycling," he said. "You learn not to purchase things that are not recyclable. We take our own home-sewn bags with us when we shop and buy in bulk.

"When we go out to a restaurant, we bring our own containers," he added of bringing home leftovers. "We've learned not to buy anything in plastic bags. You just have to retrain your brain."

You can also recycle yourself back to school. For the fifth year, county residents and business representatives are invited to take the master recycler program.

The Jackson County Recycling Partnership seeks 40 people to become volunteer solid-waste prevention ambassadors to raise awareness of the importance of recycling following the comprehensive 11-week program, said manager Denise Barnes.

"There are so many benefits to our environment by keeping usable products out of our landfills," she said. "And you are saving so many resources by taking something old and turning it into something new."

Jackson County now recovers 48 percent of its total solid waste through recycling, energy recovery or composting, according to the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality.

Since the master recyclers program was first offered in 2008, 115 county residents have graduated to become garbage-frugal, Barnes said.

"This training is good for us all," she said. "We get people right out of college to retirees, and everyone in between. We now have a lot of businesses sending employees because of the cost savings they bring back to work."

Graduates of the master recycler program are required to give 40 service hours to support and expand local waste diversion programs and projects. The volunteers "recycle" what they learned within their communities to reduce waste generation, increase public awareness and support area waste diversion projects, events and programs.

"I would encourage everybody to get involved," Rasmussen said, noting he met people who will be lifelong friends. "I got to learn so much about recycling and reducing the garbage we produce."

He also learned a snappy new tune.

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 541-776-4496 or email him at pfattig@mailtribune.com.



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