When Dayna Miller started her career in property management and retail management insurance, she never anticipated a career in waste. However, the common theme of customer service has resonated throughout her journey.
As Waste Pro's director of government affairs in the Northeast Florida Region, Miller has seen a linear waste system begin to come full circle. She has been with the company for 15 years, working up from commercial sales before transferring to her current position.
"Since being in the waste industry, I've definitely seen it put an emphasis on finding more efficient, cleaner, and environmentally friendly ways to collect and dispose of solid waste," she tells Waste360. "I'm seeing more of a push towards reuse and repurpose; encouraging practices like composting to become more mainstream and looking for ways to prevent food waste. So, it almost feels like we're coming full circle.”
Miller says the waste industry doesn't actually have anything to do with garbage and recycling, but rather great customer service and community involvement, which she exemplifies through her work at Waste Pro and volunteer efforts.
Along with recently receiving the Melvin Jones Fellowship for "significant contributions" to humanitarian efforts, Miller serves as a commissioner for the City of Alachua, Fla., and is involved in numerous local organizations, including the Alachua Lions Club, Keep Alachua County Beautiful, various chambers of commerce, and is a board member of Recycle Florida Today, just to name a few.
She explains how she connects her experience on a volunteer level to her work at Waste Pro.
"How I work with each community is unique and customized to them because each community has its own wants and needs, but in general, [I try to] get out and work and volunteer with the people in those communities," Miller says. "That's how I find out what's important to them. What do they want to see? As far as solid waste, recycling, and environmentally sensitive topics, what is it that means the most to them? This is done by being involved in organizations that don't have anything to do with garbage. That's how I'm able to really find out the pulse of that community. Becoming a good listener is really important. What people really want is to be heard and know you're trying to help.”
Miller goes on to talk about Waste Pro-tection, a companywide program launched in 2012 for crews to anonymously report incidents to law enforcement while working in the community. She explains how partnerships with local authorities and municipalities led to the success of this "see something, say something" initiative.
"It's a program that's available to any of our municipalities at no cost. We work with each local law enforcement department and have them provide the customized training for their community," she says. "And I stress that it's a community-watch type program. It is not like Crimestoppers. We don't want our drivers getting out and stopping a crime. But if they see something, they can say something."
Over the past decade, Waste Pro-tection, or what Miller refers to as her "baby," has seen its effectiveness throughout the company's service areas, citing examples including drivers saving wandering toddlers from the street or reporting car accidents. Miller explains how the program has worked to stop crime.
"We had a time when one of my drivers was concerned about the type of garbage he was dumping into his truck, and it wasn't anything that would have been harmful to him or the truck," she says. "He picked up on some items that he didn't feel were legal. So, he called that in, and they communicated back to management. We worked with local law enforcement to have undercover officers dress as helpers on the back of the truck to run that neighborhood so they could observe what was coming out of that garbage can. That turned into discovering a drug house in that neighborhood without putting my driver in danger."
In another incident, a driver gave a toddler CPR after a family alerted the driver the child was drowning.
For Miller, this just exemplifies the tasks drivers are faced with daily.
"We've had communities recognize our drivers and helpers for their actions. Whether it be in a commission meeting or at a community event, it's really just been a wonderful partnership that we've been able to foster," she says. "The garbage men and women are out in your community every week and at every house. I mean, they are seen just as much as the mailperson. They have their eyes and ears open all the time. To be able to work with law enforcement on this community program has just been really, really rewarding. And I'm very proud of it."
Once again circling back to community service, Miller stresses that haulers, recyclers, and those in the industry should enact programs such as Waste Pro-tection that connect the company directly with the community in order to drive efficient collection, reduce contamination, and keep residents better informed.
She concludes: "Being involved in the community, like I am, shows the company cares. I mean, it's something I grew up with, that I fully believe in, and it's something Waste Pro believes in. Anyone can pick up garbage; what makes us different from everybody else is we are more than just a vendor – we are a community partner. And that has been really rewarding for me, not just as a woman but as a person."