Solid waste is a business, whether you work for a private company or a municipal government, contends Cathy Hall. Hall manages the integrated solid waste system for Pitkin County, CO. “Contracting and budgets are a big part of the job,” she says. “Pitkin County Solid Waste Center (SWC) is an enterprise fund that is the closest a county or municipality has to operating a business.” The SWC has its own fund balance and operates on its revenues. “There is pressure to manage the fund balance appropriately,” points out Hall. “I have to make sure we have the money available to implement new projects, purchase equipment, and plan for future capital projects.” As landfill closure looms in the distance, the Pitkin County SWC has engaged in an extensive community awareness campaign, such as the one that earned a tie for gold in SWANA’s 2017 Communication, Education, and Marketing Excellence Awards. The multimedia awareness campaign, “Trash Talk,” aims to draw attention to the fact that more than half of Pitkin County Landfill’s wastestream can be recycled, reused, or composted. The message is conveyed through characters designed for television who “snipe” with each other after mistakenly ending up in the landfill when they could have been diverted. The campaign has successfully drawn attention to the issue, and community participation in landfill diversion has increased, notes Hall.
What She Does Day to Day
Hall’s job entails overseeing all operational aspects: landfilling, recycling (including single-stream, mattresses, books, e-waste, and textiles), household hazardous waste, composting and sale of compost, soils, and aggregate, as well as education and outreach. Offsite, she does a lot of community interaction, such as training courses, outreach at community meetings, and Board of County Commissioner presentations. “I don’t do this alone,” she says. “The Solid Waste Center has an experienced group of people who work in the daily operations, including equipment operation and scale house management, which includes load tracking and invoicing.”
What Led Her to This Line of Work
Hall earned a Bachelor of Science degree in geology from The Ohio State University. The degree offered multiple applications in the environmental services field, Hall notes. She started her career in hazardous waste site management and remediation. “I worked with some great people who mentored me along the way,” says Hall. She transitioned into solid waste consulting, working a decade with SCS Engineers where she learned the ins and outs of solid waste management practices. While there, she earned an MBA from the University of Maryland, “which has been a tremendous help in managing a solid waste system for a county government,” says Hall.
What She Likes Best About Her Work
“Solid waste management is fun—the industry is constantly evolving and new equipment and practices are emerging all of the time,” points out Hall. “Solid waste provides a critical service to the community. To do it well brings a lot of job satisfaction. The constant challenge of improving compaction rates to save airspace in the landfill to finding reuse or recycling outlets for hard-to-deal-with items such as mattresses, textile, or books is extraordinarily satisfying. I also get to be creative, which is not something that happens a lot with landfills. Pitkin County is environmentally progressive and supports innovation. The county commissioners allow me the flexibility to explore creative marketing to get the message out about solid waste and all that we do. The community also is supportive of our activities and embraces our programs and messaging.”