Growing up, Amanda Fairley never thought that she would work in the field of waste management. But when the right opportunity came along in 2008, she decided to give the industry a try.
For the last nine years, Fairley has worked as municipal marketing representative III for Waste Management, helping to improve customer service and various areas of operations. In addition to bettering Waste Management, she serves as the secretary for the Carolina Recycling Association Board of Directors and a leader of the Wildlife Habitat Certification program for the South Atlantic area.
“One of Amanda's most admirable qualities is her willingness to help with any project,” says Marla Prince, senior community relations specialist at Waste Management. “She is the first one to sign up, and without question, she sees the project through to completion regardless of any roadblocks or issues. Amanda is also highly admired for her willingness to educate and support peers and customers as well as her perseverance and tenacity.”
Waste360 recently spoke with the Waste360 40 Under 40 award winner about her short-term goals, how she works through challenges and some of the duties that come along with her role as municipal marketing representative III.
Waste360: When did you start your career in the waste and recycling industry?
Amanda Fairley: I went to Duke University for my undergrad and earned my bachelor’s degree in environmental science and policy. After graduation, I started working for an environmental consulting firm in Washington, D.C., and ended up going back to school at John Hopkins University for my master’s in environmental engineering.
Before starting my job search on the West Coast, I spent a year in Asia teaching English. When I returned back to the states in 2008, a position opened up at Waste Management in Sacramento, Calif., and it happened to be a great fit. I didn’t anticipate getting a job with a waste management company, but a great opportunity became available, and I have been with Waste Management ever since.
Waste360: Tell us about your role as municipal marketing representative III.
Amanda Fairley: My role changes every day, and that’s exciting because it gives me a lot of variety. In my role, I focus on the areas of North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia, and I am responsible for site visits, customer visits, customer training for recycling programs, attending and holding meetings, project management, operations improvement, education and outreach, etc.
Over the years, responsibility has been added to my role based on years of experience and display of talent and skill. I was initially hired for a contract that Waste Management had with the city of West Sacramento, and I worked closely with the city to improve its recycling goals and diversion rates in multifamily units. I also helped develop a green building ordinance and various other sustainability-oriented initiatives for the city.
Waste360: You also help lead the Wildlife Habitat Certification program for the South Atlantic area. Tell us a little bit about that.
Amanda Fairley: At almost all of our landfills, we have a portion of property that is undevelopable or set aside as a buffer. And instead of just letting that property sit there, we often utilize it for natural habitat.
At one of our landfills in Savannah, Ga., for example, we work closely with local stakeholders, the 4-H Club in Chatham County and Birders to maintain a diverse natural habitat. The Birders come every six weeks to do site surveys and look at the biodiversity of the bird population, and the 4-H Club helps us develop and maintain the landfill’s environmental education trail.
Currently, we have three sites with similar types of programs, and we are working to certify two more sites in the near future. These sites are certified by the Wildlife Habitat Council, which makes sure our programs and activities add value to the environment.
Waste360: At Waste Management, you also help assist in the development of natural gas fueling stations. Tell us about that and some of the benefits that come along with those fueling stations.
Amanda Fairley: Waste Management actually just celebrated the opening of its 100th natural gas fueling station and its milestone of operating 6,000 natural gas trucks. I helped develop about 10 of those fueling stations, and I am working to help develop more in the future.
As a company, we are investing a significant sum of money into our fueling stations because we fuel all of our trucks onsite. Often times, there is not an appropriate amount of infrastructure in natural gas fueling in the locations that we service so having our own fueling stations helps us overcome that problem.
One of the major benefits of those stations is the environmental benefits—greenhouse gas emissions are significantly reduced, air quality is improved and more Environmental Protection Agency standards are met. In addition, the trucks are quieter and the fuel is cheaper, which are both great benefits.
Waste360: What are some of your short-term goals?
Amanda Fairley: Right now, I am focusing on customer service and helping our commercial, residential, industrial and municipal customers develop appropriate, efficient, easy-to-use and convenient recycling programs. In addition, I am focusing significantly on the natural gas portion of our fleet, operations improvement and growing the Wildlife Habitat Certification program.
Waste360: What are some of the challenges that you face in your role and how do you work through them?
Amanda Fairley: Managing input from stakeholders and coming up with a program or solution that meets everyone’s expectations is always a challenge. Over the years, I have learned to take everyone’s ideas into consideration and to move forward with the best, most reasonable ideas that will benefit both the company and the communities that we serve.
When it comes to education and outreach, it all comes down to making sure that we are producing clear messaging. What we think is easy to understand may not be easy for every community to understand. I have learned that clear messaging consists of listing what can and cannot be recycled and why. If we can explain why something cannot be recycled, more people will understand and start to make behavioral changes.
Waste360: If you could give some advice to the next generation of industry workers, what would it be?
Amanda Fairley: Be open to all of the different opportunities that you’re given, even if they’re not something that you’re initially in love with. Those opportunities could open up many doors for you in your career, and more often than not, they are more interesting that you think they’ll be.