A partnership between the Sacramento County Department of Waste Management and Recycling Department and Will Rogers Middle School is giving new life to discarded lawnmowers while helping students get hands-on training in engine repair.

Since 2019, the North Area Recovery Station (NARS) has allowed Will Rogers Middle School instructor Ken MacPherson to take discarded gasoline lawnmowers to use in the school’s class on bicycle and small gas engine repair. The class gives mechanically-minded students a jumpstart on auto shop classes offered in high school. 

Small gas engines are a little pricey, and students have a tendency to lose parts. One day while visiting NARS, MacPherson noticed customers dropping off old gas-powered mowers. Inspiration struck.

MacPherson approached NARS workers, who supported his idea of using discarded mowers. As part of the agreement, the school is required to document the donation, release the county from liability, and prohibit students from selling the engines.

Pre-COVID, students in a classroom could perform basic diagnostic tests, drain oil and gas from the engines, and give them a good pressure wash. Given the restrictions of the pandemic, MacPherson prepares the mowers for students to work on at home and schedules a pickup date for parents and students to come to the school. They choose the engine they will work on for the semester.

“There’s a lot you can learn from a small gasoline engine. It’s like a 3-D puzzle, with oil,” said MacPherson. “And if they can make it work, they can use the engine to build anything they want.” 

For Waste Management and Recycling, it’s another example of how employees go the extra mile to support the community and reduce and reuse items that would have otherwise ended up in the landfill. And in this case, it also provides an opportunity to partner with a school and educate students.​