Master Recycler Program plans for second class

May 21, 2013

By Peter Clark

After a successful pilot project, the city’s Department of Sustainability received council support to apply for another grant to fund its Master Recycling Program.

In an attempt to fulfill its goals of promoting a sustainable, environmentally conscious city, the department launched a program last fall to instruct participants about recycling work that could be accomplished in the area. The pilot was initially funded from a state grant that looked to push an agenda of sustainability and composting.

“The county is fine tuning their sustainable goals and set more aggressive targets,” Department of Sustainability Resource Conservation Coordinator Micah Bonkowski said. “They have a coordinated prevention grant to reduce waste to landfills. It’s much more efficient to do it at home rather than send it to a compositor so they can send it right back to you.”

Modeled after the instrumental organization Seattle Tilth, an educational institution dedicated to foster an equitable and sustainable local food system, the program consisted of 32 detailed hours in class settings so those enrolled could experience the whole gamut of waste management and recycling opportunities. Bonkowski said students visited landfills, recycling plants and compost facilities.

“It’s based on how people can recycle at home,” Bonkowski said. “The state is more interested in moving people in that direction.”

After their training, the students have to perform 20 hours of community-oriented volunteer work, focusing on specific areas of their choosing, he said.

Department of Sustainability Senior Program Manager Mary Joe de Beck said that it was a culture shift the department is trying to promote.

“It’s a resurgence of an old idea,” she said. “How do we get people back to the connection of the soil?”

The department’s overall aim is to spread awareness of sustainable living through leaders that pass through the Master Recycler course. It hopes to inspire Issaquah’s citizens into action or get them to at least consider the impact of daily habits.

“The whole goal is to build more experience in the community so we’re not the only ones holding that information,” de Beck said. “They are leaders in their way.”

After 21 students took part in the class last year, the Eastside responded to Issaquah’s efforts in a large way.

“We felt that the Eastside of Lake Washington was lacking in this coordinated effort,” Bonkowsi said. “Because we have the Pickering Barn as a training ground and the farm there, Bellevue and Kirkland have been very supportive.”

To assist the continuation and expansion of the program, those cities even donated some of the grant money earned from their own coordinated prevention grants to Issaquah’s continuation of the project.

Bonkowski said the department expects an even greater number to attend when the class begins this fall, and he’s optimistic that the application for this year’s grant will be approved. He will find out this summer whether the department secured the available funds. However, he was quick to say that it planned to hold the class regardless of the grant availability.

“That’s something we would have to evaluate,” he said. “But, we’ll probably pull something off.”

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