The Evolution Story of the Manual

In just a couple of weeks, you will be receiving a link to the new Master Recycler Manual. I thought you might like to know a little about how this new manual came to be.


This is what Cell phones looked like in 1991

This is what Cell phones looked like in 1991

Here are the first sentences of the Master Recycler Manual written in 1991:

"When it comes to trash, the U.S. is at the top of the heap! We generate more solid waste than almost any other country in the world."

Here’s how the new one starts:

"Imagine a day when Oregonians live well and prosperously, producing and using materials responsibly, conserving resources, and protecting the environment. Imagine a day when we recognize that the earth’s resources are finite and we begin living within those limits, ensuring that future generations have the same opportunities as we do."

The new Manual is going to talk about materials in a whole new way. Instead of exploring just e-waste, the new manual will have a chapter on electronics. There are chapters on food, buildings and toxics that include, but don’t stop, at compost, demolition and hazardous waste. These end-the-life topics will be important parts of the chapters, but they will also include strategies such as Open Source software, meal planning, tiny houses and green cleaners.

For the first time, the manual will also explore how institutional racism and poverty result in the inequitable distribution of the benefits and burdens of materials. Mining, manufacturing, and other production processes have the largest negative impacts on low-income communities and people of color. Meanwhile those same people have less access to products that provide health and wellbeing. As we change how we produce and consume, the manual will explore how we have the opportunity to also ensure that it is done collaboratively so that communities of color and low-income communities are co-creators.


Instead of clipart, you will find new images that provide clear information.

Instead of clipart, you will find new images that provide clear information.

Master Recyclers already make a difference every day. The new manual aims to better equip you to be even more effective in three areas of focus: behavior change, community organizing and advocacy.

  • The new manual provides specific resources on how to recycle, compost, reuse, fix, borrow, share and purchase sustainably and then how to share your story with your neighbors, friends and co-workers.
  • It will connect you with existing community efforts and provide instruction and resources on how to organize event recycling, school projects, green teams, swap events and sharing organizations.
  • Policy, infrastructure and program design will be described throughout the manual so that you are informed about where current laws are lacking or how some even get in the way of individuals taking action.


A heartfelt thank you to copy editor Mark Feldman whose coaching made this massive undertaking possible and even fun! Readers have said that the voice Mark gave the manual is fresh and understandable. 

Thank you also, graphic designer Leslie Wilson who made the new manual absolutely beautiful with all new graphics, formatting and a color pallet.

Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability provided funding and gave me room to spend two years working on the manual. David Allaway (DEQ), Steve Cohen (BPS), Sara Harding Mihm and Alex Mihm (Master Recyclers), Lisa Heigh (Metro), Jerry Powell and Dylan De Thomas (Resource Recycling Magazine), Shawn Wood (BPS) all provided new content for the manual.

Fifteen committees of content experts, local jurisdictions, community partners and Master Recyclers informed, designed reviewed and provided pictures.

A big thanks to all who contributed to this two year effort! I think you will be pleased with the results.