Celebrating Women in Waste and Recycling
For the majority of people, waste management is a mystifying force with operations that vary widely from state to state and even differ across county lines. Landfills, recycling facilities, and incinerators are mysterious entities existing on the outskirts of cities and towns, rarely visited by those who fill them up. Even more compelling are the people behind these operations: those who haul the trash, sort the materials and develop the policies and procedures to increase efficiency within our waste management systems.
This month, Trash Magic’s producers Oakley J-Fast and Sara Fuentes shine a light on this fascinating industry. By interviewing a variety of thought leaders in this space, Trash Magic demystifies the forces that make our trash go poof and covers topics such as waste management technology, policy development, strategic planning, and collaboration.
When we throw out our trash, it seems to disappear like magic! But it is not just a wave of the wand – it is the hard work of many people. Listen in on this month’s mini-series as Trash Magic illuminates what makes this industry so magical through the Women’s Voice.
Trash Magic dove into the conversation with Samantha Podgorny, the Product Manager of the Electric Refuse Trucks at Heil Environmental. Sam shared highlights in her career path, including the tight-knit community and endless evolution taking place to ensure waste management becomes more efficient. As a Product Manager, Sam explained her experience working with technology: garbage trucks can act as “roaming data centers” that help collect valuable information about trash collection, strategic planning, and resource allocation.
The waste management industry is a small community with endless opportunities for improvement and collaboration. Sam emphasized this fact from a digital perspective, while Trash Magic’s next guest, Peggy Macenas, highlighted this from a policy and regulatory perspective. Peggy is the Vice President of the Midwest Region at the National Waste & Recycling Association (NWRA). Aside from working for nine-chapter states to ensure each one is well-served, Peggy is also very involved in the NWRA Women’s Council.
Many of her duties are centered upon advocacy work, including reading through bills and taking issues on them. Her work with the Women’s Council is a niche responsibility that emphasizes the importance of personalized service and the commitments needed to support the progress of women in the industry. After 28 years in the NWRA, Peggy shared insight into why waste management is such a meaningful career and also, interesting. In a similar thread to Sam’s conversation, Peggy expressed enthusiasm for the industry’s constant evolution and the problem-solving needed to address societal challenges.
How does recycling work? Where do garbage trucks go? When will our landfills fill up? These are questions that many people ask, but few know the answers.
The third guest on Women’s Voices, Katie Evans, addressed questions about the waste industry by creating an ABC book; written from the viewpoint of a child, the book is crafted to educate the natural curiosity within all of us about waste management. Educating communities about the waste industry is just one of Katie’s projects. Aside from being elected as the President of the Women’s Council for National Waste and Recycling Association (NWRA), Katie is also leading Government Affairs with Best Way Disposal.
With over a decade of experience in waste management, Katie’s focus is on education, connection, and collaboration. Her role with Best Way is focused on developing conversations about policy. As the President of NWRA, her role is bringing stakeholders together to focus on the elements needed to advance the industry. Although she has many responsibilities in both positions, Katie shared the secret to her success: she loves what she does.
There’s something about the industry that makes you fall in love with it.
The waste industry offers a career path with a mission; it demands the skills needed to problem-solve, collaborate, and connect. Perhaps it is the people within the industry, the meaningful work, or a combination of the two – but it is clear that these women have found their niche of expertise. These women are thought leaders in a once male-dominated industry, and their efforts are the forces that push this industry to evolve.