For most people, recycling is about what they can toss in their blue bin or recycling cart that gets placed at the curb.
But to the Recycling and Waste Reduction District of Porter County, it's much more than that.
For those interested in knowing more about recycling, the organization is offering a Master Recycler program that's designed as a comprehensive overview of waste reduction and recycling in Porter County. The class features guest speakers from the industry and field trips, and begins Sept. 11 - running for eight weeks from 6 to 8 p.m. on Thursdays.
"Some of the topics that we will discuss include what can and can't be recycled and why, opportunities to prevent waste, what happens to recyclables and trash once they are collected from residents, and recycling resources available to everyone beyond curbside collections," said Donna Stuckert, public education coordinator of the Recycling & Waste Reduction District of Porter County.
Students also will learn more about household hazardous waste and why the district holds special collections, she said.
"Backyard composting and vermicomposting are also covered," she said. "There's a lot of information to be presented."
Because the class is in the evening, field trips are optional, but recommended.
"We will be going to the materials recovery facility in Homewood, Ill., where all of our recyclables go, to the Newton County landfill, to Metro Recycling to see how a private recycling business operates and the Valparaiso compost site to see operations up close," Stuckert said.
The class is part of an ongoing mission to educate residents about waste reduction, she said.
"We have one employee dedicated to visiting schools around Porter County to help educate kids, and he reaches about 6,000 kids per year," she said.
Though the organization has held one-topic workshops in the past for adults, it has never held a comprehensive program on recycling and waste reduction, she said.
"Master Recycler programs are very popular in the Pacific Northwest, in Washington State and Oregon," Stuckert said. "So we thought we'd give it a try and see if people are interested, and it appears that people here in Porter County want to know more."
This is the first Master Recycling class to be held anywhere in the state of Indiana, she said.
"At the district, we field frequently asked questions every day, so we know people always have questions," she said.
One of the requirements of the class is for students to fulfill 30 volunteer hours so they can help spread the message to others and help increase the organization's educational efforts, Stuckert said.
"Recycling isn't cut and dry," she said. "You can't look on the bottom of a container, see the recycling symbol and assume it's recyclable, because that's not always the case, which I have learned."
The industry is very regional, and what is considered recyclable in certain areas of the country depends on the marketability of the materials and resources available, Stuckert said.
"And there are new resources popping up all the time where people can take materials that aren't appropriate to place at the curb," she said. "There is also new technology out there, and other cities and even countries are doing interesting things to reduce waste and recycle. We can all learn from each other."
No experience is necessary to attend this class, which is open to any Porter County resident or anyone who works in Porter County who is interested in learning more about reducing waste, Stuckert said.
Cost of the class is $30 and will be held at the Porter County Administration Center, 155 Indiana Ave., Valparaiso. For more information, go to ItMeansTheWorld.org.
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