Women in Waste Leave Stereotypes in the Dust

The waste industry has traditionally been male-dominated, not only by the numbers but also by society and culture’s perception of people working in the field. For those in the industry, we know that women are earning a variety of roles across companies on all levels. Here are three Wastequip women who are making a difference in the industry.

March 29, 2022

6 Min Read
Women Sanitation Worker
kzenon/Getty Images

Allison Eckley

The waste industry has traditionally been male-dominated, not only by the numbers but also by society's and culture’s perception of people working in the field. For those in the industry, we know that women are earning a variety of roles across companies on all levels.

In honor of Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day, the Wastequip team wanted to spotlight a few women in the waste industry who are leaving the stereotypes in the dust.

Meet Nicole Rinauro, principal at Rinauro Consulting; Angela Maske, labor crew chief, bulky waste for the City of Charlotte; and Laura Hubbard, director of municipal sales for Toter, a Wastequip brand.

Deep Roots in the Waste Industry

Nicole Rinauro has been an independent consultant to the waste industry for over 20 years, but her involvement in the field came long before that. Rinauro’s grandfather worked in the industry briefly before moving his family from Sicily to the US, and her father worked his way up in the industry after graduating high school.

The family business is where she gained much of her early experience in waste, working odd jobs for her father before graduating from college and deciding to pursue a career in the industry.

“I immediately saw there was a great need for relationship building as a result of the emergent recycling culture, as well as a need for new skills in the industry,” says Rinauro. “I loved and love how multi-faceted and challenging the business is.”

Over the years, Rinauro has seen the industry shift from focusing on the business of transporting materials to concentrating on the management of collected materials within the context of a complex regulatory matrix. Companies in waste services are now responsible for an entire supply chain that they have limited control over and require skills that previously weren’t needed.

An example she gives of this in waste services companies is women in public service education activities, who are generally highly capable of translating industry regulations into initiatives and programs that include messaging for a variety of stakeholders. 

During her time in the industry, Rinauro has learned a valuable lesson in the importance of not allowing others to define her.

Her piece of advice to the next generation of women in waste is that determination and a sense of humor will serve them well. Rinauro says that the key for women currently in the industry is focusing on self-awareness. She also has a vision for women in the industry.

“It is difficult to evolve or accomplish much without a solid connection with who you really are and what motivates you,” she says. “Professional development is completely stalled without any effort placed on personal development. Aside from that, dare to find a place for yourself in any organization you feel drawn to.”

Rinauro also hopes that women in the industry will find support, technical tools, resources and friendship from Women in Solid Waste and Recycling (WISR), an organization in which she is very involved.

Finding a Change of Pace in Waste

Angela Maske first joined the City of Charlotte’s solid waste department five years ago when she was looking for an opportunity to move away from driving a box truck.

Her interest in the industry was fueled by a long-time attraction to driving a garbage truck, citing the thrill of operating heavy equipment. It’s no wonder that she began her career in waste collections as a Special Services driver, handling a dump truck with the litter crew.

Maske has learned a valuable lesson in her career that gender isn’t a factor in getting the job done.

“As a woman working in a predominantly male environment, the most valuable lesson I learned is women work just as hard,” Maske said. “We can do anything the men can do.”

So far, Maske says that her career in the city’s waste collections has been gratifying. Despite working in a predominantly male environment, she has seen growth happening for women all around her, including for herself. She observes that women are holding high positions, pointing out a female director in her department who moved on to work with the city manager as well as a woman who was in field operations and now heads the safety team.

After two and a half years, Maske herself became a supervisor in her department and feels that overall, discrimination against women within the city isn’t a factor. The real issue she has seen is a lack of women applying for positions.

“The advice I would give women considering a career in waste collections is just to do it. There is a great opportunity for growth, and we can do anything we put our minds to. You can come in as a driver, but the opportunities are there, as long as you are determined.”

A Twist of Fate Leads to Waste

Laura Hubbard never set out to make a career in the waste industry. After she graduated from college, her job search led her to apply for an entry-level marketing assistant role with a company headquartered in her hometown of Statesville, NC. As luck would have it, that company was Toter.

Fast forward more than 20 years, and you will find that the role she looked at as a resume builder has turned into a career she loves and is proud of. In her current role as director of municipal sales for Toter, Hubbard has seen the industry and its roles evolve from the days of the “good old boys club” to seeing women filling many technical, management and senior leadership roles. 

“No longer are women expected only to have certain jobs; we now have women in senior leadership positions as well as mechanics and drivers,” Hubbard says. “We truly can be anything we want, and the waste industry is embracing that and providing opportunities.”

As a female who has spent more than two decades navigating the industry, Hubbard noted the one lesson she wishes she knew at the start of her career is not to let anyone hold her back, including herself.

Hubbard has some sage advice for the next generation of women looking to climb the ladder of success in the waste industry.

”Speak up about what your goals are and ask for advice on what is needed to achieve them,” she says.  “Women tend to work hard, hoping they will be noticed and offered the promotion they want. There is nothing wrong with advocating for yourself and what you want. You can bet your male counterparts are.”

Hubbard recommends joining The National Waste and Recycling Association (NWRA) Women’s Council for women in the industry looking for resources. It provides an option for women to network and gain opportunities for professional development.

In 2019, Wastequip launched Wastequip Women, an internal program aimed at supporting any female employee interested in learning more about the company, manufacturing or the waste industry. Hubbard offers a similar idea for anyone interested in creating a more inclusive environment for women within their company. 

“Start a women’s group at your company,” she says. “It is a great way to support each other and learn more about the different roles women have within your organization. On our last Wastequip Women’s monthly call, I learned about a program we have that hires and trains women welders. How cool is that?”




Editor's Note: This article was submitted to highlight the achievements of women in the industry. The article was edited for clarity and to meet editorial requirements. Please see Waste360's Editorial Guidelines for article submission information.

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