We are pleased to share that Rachel Oster is our Green.Org person of the week! Rachel is making a huge impact in the waste and recycling industry through her efforts to diversify the field and to educate individuals and businesses on sustainable waste design. She is the owner and principal of Diversion Strategies and the Co-founder of Women in Solid Waste and Recycling (WISR). Diversion Strategies delivers innovative solid waste system design and market growth strategies for their private and public clients alike, specializing in the implementation and execution of complex industrial projects. WISR empowers women by giving them the tools and support they need to be successful leaders, in order to diversify the decision makers in the waste and recycling industry,
Tell us a little bit about you and your background:
I think I was destined to be in the waste & recycling industry. As a child, I would often dwell on the subject of garbage, wondering where it all went and how it was managed once it left our curb. When I graduated college and found an entry level position in the industry, I was immediately hooked and became interested in both the policy and politics that influenced our waste management system.
From there I advanced to leadership roles overseeing the operation of facilities and collection companies which grounded my knowledge with experience in the field. Since leaving my executive position to start the firm, Diversion Strategies with my Partner, Erin Merrill, we have been assisting new and emerging companies navigate the landscape of solid waste management systems in the US.
By supporting our clients in this way, Diversion Strategies is reducing the cost and impact of managing solid waste and recycling to the customer. While building our consulting firm, we also co-founded Women in Solid Waste & Recycling (WISR). WISR is an organization built to give women the tools and support they need to be successful leaders in the industry.
What is a fun fact about you?
My family and I oversee the conservation of 11 acres of deciduous forest in the hills of the Berkshire Mountains on our new family homestead in Connecticut. This land has been untouched since the colonial settlement of the land in the late 1600’s.
Why do you think climate change and sustainability is such an important topic today?
I believe that every generation feels the impacts of the choices the generation before them make. Seeing, feeling, and facing those impacts compels us to make a change in our behavior. Today we’re feeling the effects of our human impact through climate change and it is fueling a generation of problem solvers aimed at tackling the problem. It’s quite beautiful to see the evolution in my own industry.
What do you envision your industry looking like 10 years from now?
Policy tends to be the cog that drives change in the solid waste and recycling industry. As we continue to see the impacts of single use plastics and wasted food on our environment, the industry will continue to be asked to step up to the plate to help solve it. That means more education to customers about what can and can’t be recycled, and expanding curbside programs to include organic waste collection and recycling.
Historically, change has not happened over night for the solid waste and recycling industry but more and more we are seeing the effects of “fast times” catching up to us. Companies relying on old infrastructure and outdated contracts and tactics must embrace technology, data collection and efficiency if they don’t want to face major disruption in the next 10 years.
What can the average person do to make a difference?
Don’t depend on the recycling symbol. Look at your city or town website to see what can TRULY be recycled in your area. It can vary depending on the recycling infrastructure and markets in each area.
Green.Org is a television show, podcast, social media, and news platform, hosted by Dylan Welch, that highlights climate change scientists, renewable energy experts, and clean tech entrepreneurs by giving them a voice in the mainstream media. The Green podcast highlights leading experts in cleantech, sustainability, media, finance, and real estate. Tune in and subscribe to the podcast on Apple or Spotify to listen to interviews with leading cleantech and sustainable experts. If you are interested in being featured on Green, click HERE.
Kayla is an avid traveller, blogger and dog-mom. She is passionate about the planet and other people, and loves sharing stories of those making a positive impact.