Washington County graduates first all-Spanish Master Recycler class

For Immediate Release: Friday, June 14, 2019

Sponsored by: Health and Human Services Department, Solid Waste & Recycling (SW&R) Division

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On Friday, June 6, 14 members of the Latino community graduated as members of Master Recycler Class 73. This was the first community-based, culturally specific course in recycling and sustainability in Washington County, and the first recycling course in the region where every participant speaks Spanish. 

The class was a Master Recycler class at Far Westcollaboration among Washington County Solid Waste & Recycling, the Master Recycler Program and Centro Cultural de Washington County, which combined resources, experience and community relationships. The primary goal was to make the course relevant and accessible by considering the Latino community’s unique culture, language and needs that have historically resulted in barriers to participation in the Master Recycler course.

Centro Cultural’s deep connection with the Latino community was fundamental in promoting the course, attracting participants and providing a welcoming learning space. “An essential part of our mission at Centro Cultural is to empower members of the community,” says Centro Cultural Project Manager Mariana Valenzuela Figueroa “The Master Recycler Spanish class reflects our mission since it is an opportunity for participants to become leaders by using their knowledge to empower others, and to improve our environment as well."

The Master Recycler Program has 28 years of experience in education and outreach focused on sustainable consumption, waste prevention, toxics, composting and recycling. Class 73 joins a group of more than 1,700 volunteers, of which only 75 speak Spanish, who are making a difference in the Portland Metro area. This cohort’s Spanish skills and cultural background are invaluable tools that empower them to communicate with their families, neighbors, coworkers, church or community groups, spreading the word among the more than 96,000 Latinos living in the county who share not only a language, but also culture and traditions.

The course includes five classroom sessions and two field trips, during which participants shared their own knowledge, visited local recycling facilities, practiced community outreach skills, and composed an ode to their favorite food to highlight the importance of preventing food waste. The group also discussed the differences in the waste management systems of their countries of origin, acknowledging the need to understand and build a common knowledge about Oregon’s garbage and recycling systems, policies, markets and career opportunities. They also identified the positive environmental impacts of sustainable actions that have long been part of the Latino culture and identity, including reducing, repairing and reusing.

During the last class, participants and their families talked with recycling industry experts and community leaders to identify the unique challenges and opportunities the region faces in creating a more equitable and sustainable community. Juan Carlos Gonzalez, Metro Councilor and Centro Cultural representative, shared a desire to support more courses to form “an army” of Latino Master Recyclers and influencers to make the regional garbage and recycling system a space where diverse communities are welcome and represented at all levels.

Now, with graduation behind them, each participant will complete 30 volunteer hours to obtain their official Master Recycler certification and will continue meeting regularly to work on team projects to maximize their impact.

“The Centro Cultural/Washington County class is an amazing group of people with rich connections in the community and a wide range of experiences they bring to the program,” says Master Recycler Program Coordinator Lauren Norris. “I can’t wait to see the projects they develop together to help their communities reduce, reuse and recycle!”

Solid Waste & Recycling is a division of Washington County's Department of Health and Human Services. The division’s goal is to ensure all Washington County households and businesses have equitable access to garbage and recycling collection services at a fair and reasonable cost. The program offers free tools and services for Washington County community members and businesses, empowering the community to make informed choices and take sustainable actions that protect human health and the environment.

“I am heartened to see the Latino community embracing the opportunity to develop a more equitable and sustainable garbage and recycling system,” says Theresa Koppang, Solid Waste & Recycling’s longtime manager. “As local government agencies, we have the responsibility to correct historical disparities and work toward creating a system that serves the best interests of all Washington County community members.”

Media Contact:

Wendy Gordon, Communications Coordinator/PIO