Waste Reduction Coordinator  What They Do

Just the Facts


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dotWaste reduction coordinators do a lot of different things. They need communication skills, not to mention an understanding of statistics, engineering and even psychology.

They are part environmentalists, part bureaucrats and part public relations specialists.

dot"There have been days where I've found myself moving 1,500-pound bales of paper with a forklift in the morning, then lobbying politicians on behalf of recycling legislation in the afternoon," says Alec Cooley.

Cooley is a solid waste reduction manager at Humboldt State University in California. "I get to use both sides of my brain on those days," he says.

"This can be a very fulfilling job. You can make a difference in the community through education and promotion of three Rs: reduce, reuse, recycle," says Kim A. Kidd Kitagawa.

Kitagawa is a waste reduction coordinator. "The average resident cares that they have recycling and garbage collection. Many are interested in going beyond the 'blue box' to help the environment."

dotWaste reduction coordinators have many different things to do. The most important is managing the program to collect and handle recyclable waste.

This involves writing and administering the contract with a collection contractor. They must make sure the contractor is meeting the terms of the agreement. They also have to track costs and compile related statistics.

dotWaste reduction coordinators also plan and run other programs. They try to tell people "about the importance of conserving natural resources and landfill space," says Cooley.

This may include developing and distributing promotional and educational literature. They might prepare and deliver presentations to various community groups, schools and committees. They also handle customer concerns and questions.

dotConducting waste audits is another task, according to Cooley.

This involves sorting through the garbage to separate certain types of waste. Coordinators also work with the garbage hauler to change the way the trash is collected. They make sure recycling services are convenient and easy to use.

"You are dealing with the public, contractors and team members on an ongoing basis. You must communicate requirements and other information in a timely and appropriate manner," says Kitagawa.

A waste reduction coordinator "also needs excellent organizational skills," she says.

"A coordinator must multi-task, prioritize and handle a number of tasks each day. Given the nature of the work, a coordinator has to be flexible."

dotWaste reduction coordinators may also administer household hazardous waste programs and composting programs.

"Waste management coordinators are responsible for handling an increasing number of different programs, not just specializing in one. It's important to know the legislative requirements and what's being proposed," says Kitagawa.

"Volunteer on related committees to get a better appreciation of the industry. Learn what's happening in other municipalities."

dotThese coordinators typically work in an office setting. They spend a lot of time making phone calls, preparing reports, lobbying for changes in recycling legislation and educating the public on the benefits of recycling and reducing waste.

At a Glance

Manage the program to collect and handle recyclable waste

  • You have to be flexible
  • Communication skills are very important
  • Training in environmental studies is a good place to start