Those passionate about recycling are guaranteed to learn something new by taking Marion County’s wildly popular Master Recycler class.

Classes are presented twice yearly, with a new class starting in a few weeks.

Applications are due by September 11.

The class is for anyone interested in reducing materials that wrongly enter the garbage stream as well as understanding the many ways recycled materials are handled after being dropped in the blue bin.

Kirk Leonard, who has a long interest in recycling, gives the course high marks. “It was a lot of fun,” he says. “It was fantastic.”

Leonard, who calls himself a “lifelong source separator,” learned facts he didn’t expect. “Maybe the most surprising thing I learned was the extent of ‘hopeful’ recycling,” he says, referring to items dropped into blue containers that are not actually recyclable. Students learn that objects like garden hoses and coat hangers cost the process time and money. “One of the worst is individual metal bottle tops, like from beer bottles,” Leonard says. “These can act like a bullet on a separation line, like a projectile that will put someone’s eye out.”

Jim Green works the Wheel of Waste

Thanks to taking the class, Leonard knows an easy and unexpected secret to recycling these small metal pieces, of which there are millions, and out of landfill forever.

Interested people will have to take the class to learn the answer to this solid-waste mystery.

Another insight for Leonard was the way that plastic bags – which can only be effectively recycled at grocery store bins in our area – gum up the sorting process, costing massive amounts of time and money. “The whole line at some of these processing facilities will have to be shut down for about ten minutes every hour,” Leonard says. “It’s very expensive and it doesn’t have to happen. Plastic bags are the ‘kiss of death’ in your blue bin.”

Marion County is known throughout the United States for its groundbreaking recycling and reuse programs. Administered by Public Works – Environmental Services, the outreach of the Master Recycler Program both reflects and furthers the county’s mission.

“Before taking the class, I didn’t even know that Marion County is one of the top in the nation for recycling,” says Desta Sirrine, assistant manager of One Fair World. Sirrine, who took the class several years ago says. “I would see garbage, and not think we were doing so well. But I learned a lot. That made me so proud.”

In past years attendees have included home recyclers, teachers, business people and companies who want to change community dynamics and youth. All received benefits, says class sponsors, and learn unexpected secrets and tricks to improve the Salem environment.

Upcoming Master Recycler Class

What: 35-hour Master Recycler class

When: Thursdays from Sept. 21 to Nov. 2.

Time: 6 PM

Where: 3020 Center St. NE in Salem

Application due: Midnight, September 11.

Application available: Contact Bailey Payne at, or (503) 365-3191

Cost: $25 and 30-hours of volunteer time after the training

Note: If you anticipate missing more than one session, please wait to apply until your schedule will permit you to attend all of the classes. Marion County offers the class twice a year and the next one will be an evening class over 7 weeks with two Saturday fieldtrips.