PORTLAND - In Portland, people like to talk trash. And they also walk the talk. Last year, Portland had the highest waste recovery rate in the United States. The tri-county Metro area recycled more than 54 percent of its solid waste in 2001.

And Portlanders aren't satisfied yet. The City Council set a recycling rate goal of 60 percent by 2005.

"The Portland metropolitan area is full of landfill alternatives," said Megan Cogswell, organizer of the Oregon State University Extension Service Master Recycling program, run out of their Multnomah County office.

The metropolitan area of Portland is rich in resources to help people easily participate in waste reduction and recycling activities. They include: The Metro Recycling Information Center hotline (503-234-3000, Metro area only), two permanent household hazardous waste collection sites, curbside recycling, green building options and lots of rental and second-hand retail stores.

Residents have been eager to learn and volunteer as well. The OSU Extension Service's Master Recycling program provides opportunities for people to train, then become volunteers and teach others how to reduce and recycle waste.

About 400 metro residents have trained to become OSU Extension Master Recyclers over the past decade.

Each spring and fall, a new group of OSU Master Recycler trainees take 30 hours of classes on waste prevention, reduction and recycling, featuring leaders in the fields of waste processing, reduction and recycling. They also go on two Saturday field trips to landfill recovery centers, waste processing plants and projects that successfully reduce or recycle waste.

The program's mantra is "reduce, reuse and recycle - known as the "three Rs," explained Cogswell. The Multnomah County office of the OSU Extension Service in Portland hosts the program.

"This means we try and reduce the amount of solid waste generated, reuse materials for the purpose for which they were intended, and recycle material that cannot be reused," said Cogswell. "Basically, we are teaching people about choices. Our primary focus is on waste prevention rather than only concentrating on recycling."

Part of teaching people about better choices is to teach how to buy less and share more. Master Recyclers also teach people about shopping for less toxic products, recycled products and remanufactured products.

OSU Master Recycler program works with the construction industry as well, teaching and encouraging the use of "green" building techniques, construction using less toxic materials and generating less waste, she added.

Once the volunteers complete the training part of the program, course graduates donate at least 30 hours of service in the community. Metro Master Recyclers volunteers:

  • Staff recycling information stations at farmer's markets and "fix-it" fairs around the Portland metro area;


  • Establish recycling programs at apartments, neighborhoods and businesses;


  • Collect materials from the community that can be reused, including plastic flowerpots and foam packing for reuse;


  • Research recycling and waste reduction opportunities for organizations including the Oregon Convention Center and the Oregon Foodbank and the Union Pacific Railroad;


  • Write articles to educate the public about waste reduction for the OSU Master Recycler website;


  • Demonstrate composting methods at garden fairs;


  • Teach and encourage recycling at schools, community colleges;


  • Recycle at large community events such as Portland's "Taste of the Nation" food fair and the Komen Race for the Cure;


  • Give recycling presentations to children's festivals, home eco-parties and janitorial conference, scout groups.

In 2001 alone, the group contacted more than 17,000 people in the Portland metro area. Funding comes from Metro, the City of Portland and Clackamas County Solid Waste with support from the Department of Environmental Quality and Recycling Advocates.

For persons interested in becoming a Master Recycler, the OSU Extension Service offers the eight-week program for those in the three Portland Metro Counties twice annually - in the fall and spring. Tuition is $50, though scholarships are available. For more information go to the program's website (http://extension.orst.edu/multnomah/recycling/index.html) or contact Megan Cogswell, OSU Master Recycler Program, Megan.Cogswell@oregonstate.edu. Phone: 503-725-2035.

Marion, Lane and Yamhill counties have Master Recycler programs, as well. Contact local county governments for more information about these programs.

Click photos to see a full-size version. Right click and save image to download.


Megan Cogswell, 503-725-2035