Oak R. Rankin
Envs. 120: internship
Final Report
May 7, 2002

Walla Walla 2020
Material ReUse/Recycle Community Program


Definition of Material Exchange:

A program established for businesses or individuals to post their reusable waste rather than sending it to the landfill. The waste may range any where from hazardous chemicals, pesticides, and packing peanuts to refrigerators. The goal of such a program is to save resources and reduce the amount of waste sent to the landfill.

Objective:

To research and advise in the development of the newly established Regional Material Exchange Program ran by the Walla Walla County, Regional Waste Reduction and Recycling Office. I am to contact other material exchange programs throughout the country to synthesize advice detailing an efficient way to run and promote Walla Walla County’s program. I will then meet to discuss the results with the Regional Waste Reduction and Recycling Office. I also may aid the Program by finding markets, designing pamphlets, discussing the program with companies, and other various activities.

Experience:

My internship entails aiding in the establishment of a material exchange program in Walla Walla. I work for the Walla Walla County Department of Waste Reduction and Recycling with Sharon Johnson and Sandra Cannon. When my internship began, the program was already established. The responsibility assigned to my internship was to help promote the program. I began this task by emailing people from around the country who had already established material exchange programs. In the email I sent out, I asked for advice on how to best advertise a material exchange. I received around thirty replies from these emails. I synthesized my results; cutting out advice that was centered for urban programs and focusing on advice from agricultural or rural based programs. Through the information I received, I concluded mailings and person-to-person meetings would best advertise the material exchange for Walla Walla County. I also found that material exchanges received the most calls after advertisements in a free public service announcement in the paper (or on the television). After meeting with Sharon Johnson’s office, they decided to do a mailing, presentations to companies, and to hand out informational slips at the landfill. I was assigned to design the slips to be handed out at the landfill and to go through the phonebook to get a list of possible industries, which might use the exchange program.

Designing the slips took longer than I thought it would. I have made numerous revisions, yet it is still not done. It has come along way from the beginning where it was only on one side of the paper (each is 1/3 of a standard page). The handout is currently on both sides of the sheet, with an explanation of the program on the front, and a list of possible reusable materials and places to take unwanted materials on the back. Most of the changes involved shading, graphics, bullet sizes, alignment and wording. My biggest mistake on the handout was writing, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” It was a sexist statement in a handout that should not be gender exclusive. Luckily, Sandra Cannon pointed it out to me so that it could be changed. I replaced “man” with “person.” The handout remains unfinished. However it is almost complete (in my opinion): the location for the drop off reusable materials to Walla Walla County Recycling must be listed, the configuration of the back must be approved (I have designed three different versions to choose from) and I must contact the companies listed on the backside for approval of the recommendation of the company to be used on a list of companies that take reusable materials. Hopefully, it will be completed by May 17th.

The search through the phonebook for possible industries that could possibly use a the Regional Materials Exchange Program has slowly developed into the creation of list of addresses for a mass mailing of the handout I am creating. I began this list by searching through the Walla Walla Commerce’s Website, which lists some of the industries and companies of the area. However, I found most companies not listed on the Website. As a result, I have been taking addresses out of the phonebook on a page-by-page sequence. At the moment I am wondering if this is effective for I do not know if the addresses list in the phonebook are the same as a company’s mailing address. This process has been slow. I began by using the address book on my computer to compile a list of addresses. My address book would not allow me to print a compilation of every company on the list. I then transferred the information via the copy and paste method to another program. The Waste Reduction and Recycling Office would prefer the address list to be an Excel document. Besides completing the list, I must find a way to convert it to Excel. Hopefully, it will be completed by May 17th.

Reflections:

For the amount of work I have done on this project, I find my production very low. It takes time to find one small fact or make a conclusion and move on to the next part of the internship. I feel inefficient in working on the internship, but this could also be because I have overloaded myself with work this semester and am finding it difficult to place time for the internship in my schedule. Another reason for inefficiency may be my lack of computer literacy. I am not very skilled in the use of computer programs and thus it takes me awhile to accomplish certain tasks. Oftentimes I have felt like taking a bat to my computer after working awhile in a program then having to redo most of the work because I did not know how to correctly use the program. This has been a main frustration of mine. Originally, I thought that this internship would get me out discussing with farmers and other local businesses about the best way to establish and run a materials exchange program. This would be something that I would have truly enjoyed. My favorite part of the internship (besides meetings with the ladies at the office) has been the email I sent out to request information on how to advertise a materials exchange program. It was my favorite because a minute amount of social interaction happened between me and other people. I find it hard to work on this internship when it is the same as homework.

At first when I was meeting with the Waste Reduction and Recycling Office, I received the impression that I was a college intern so no one was really listening to what I was saying. This was frustrating. However, as time passed, this impression has dropped away. This could be because I am no longer presenting information on how to run or advertise the program. It could also be that I was just nervous at the first few meetings and that I received a false impression during their interaction with me

Learning:

I have learned about relationships of environmental concerns, people, businesses and politics. Businesses care about the environment as long as they can make a buck or two off of it. Companies refuse to recycle waste or dispose of it in a proper manner or list it on materials exchange program because the business holds on to the waste too long or spends too much money on disposal of the waste, it places the company behind competitors.

My internship has mainly shown me how environmental programs are businesses and must be marketed and sold to the public. Other material exchange programs have failed, have low use, or are being shut down due to lack of interest from the public. The troubled programs that replied to my email did not advertise the program very efficiently—often times relying solely on mailings to advertise the program. The successful programs marketed their programs and advertised deals on materials listed. The successful programs in rural areas often involved meeting with people directly giving the material exchange program an appeal of small town business to the small town people.

Future:

After I complete the mailing list and handout, I see this internship taking a turn for the better. However, my job will be done. I see a future student holding this internship to actually meet with businesses to present and promote the Materials Exchange Program. The student will probably begin the internship by finishing off the business of my mailing list by mailing the handouts and then move on to the presentations with businesses. The time commitment will remain near the same amount as I had, but will seem like less because one will get outside of Whitman College while working on the internship. Any future student who desires this internship would enjoy working with the people at the Waste Reduction and Recycling office, the student just might not enjoy the tasks she/he is assigned.

Key contact:

Sharon Johnson, Coordinator
Regional Waste Reduction and Recycling Office
310 West Poplar, Suite #001
Walla Walla, WA 99362
Sjohnson@co.walla-walla.wa.us
(509) 527-3282