Schenectady County is looking for volunteers willing to learn about recycling and composting, and then use their new knowledge to help promote alternatives to throwing waste away.
The county's Cornell Cooperative Extension program is planning to offer a master composter-recycler class this fall — an offering that is similar to the extension's popular master gardener program, though more unusual to see at the county level.
While nearly every county extension office has a master gardener program to answer the public's gardening questions, Tompkins and Broome counties are among the few other counties in the state with master recycler/composter programs.
Participants in the class would be trained in how to help spread the word about keeping trash and food waste out of landfills and how to create recycling and composting programs in their homes, communities and schools. The class will run 10 consecutive Thursdays, Aug. 31 to Oct. 27, meeting from 6 to 8 p.m. There will be a guest speaker at most of the classes, and participants will be asked to pay a onetime $45 fee.
"It will give a background in the environmental issues around recycling and composting and provide the skills to become a community educator on the issues," said Angelina Peone, the county's recycling and composting educator, who will lead the classes.
"I'm hoping to get around a dozen participants, and we could certainly handle more," said Peone, who was hired in March.
The first few classes will cover recycling, and later classes will cover home composting and how to establish recycling and composting programs in schools or other community facilities, as well as how to reduce the waste generated at special events. There will be a field trip on Oct. 12 to the town of Bethlehem composting facility.
National estimates are that the average American creates 4.4 pounds of garbage per day, and that two-thirds of that could be recycled, reused or composted. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates 30 percent of the average household's waste stream is biodegradable — material that could break down naturally through composting.
Schenectady County has single-stream recycling and a yard waste composting facility in Glenville, putting it ahead of many communities.
"Usually the people who participate know a little about soil science, composting or recycling," Peone said. "The educational component on composting will focus on backyard composting, the science behind it, how to troubleshoot any problems they have."
The class sessions will be held at the Sustainable Living Center in Schenectady's Central Park. Participants must be able to pass a background check and attend all classes, or fulfill an alternative assignment for an excused absence.
Applications are available at the Cooperative Extension office in Schenectady, or people may contact Peone at her office there. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.