Christina Hanson, senior planner with the environmental engineering division for the County of Placer, CA, is described by coworkers as “dedicated and articulate.” In turn, she says she is proud to be part of a team providing residential and commercial garbage collection services to more than 39,000 customers covering about 1,500 square miles from the valley floor to Lake Tahoe. That can be challenging in California, where the cost of living is so high and some areas of the county are economically disadvantaged, she notes.
Her staff has developed various programs to mitigate those challenges—one effort led to their 2016 Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA) Bronze award in the Communication, Education, and Marketing awareness campaign category for its Bear Box Loan Program. The program offers creative solutions to issues associated with wildlife access to garbage cans, including a five-year interest-free loan paid back through garbage bills, making it more affordable for residents to install bear-proof garbage enclosures.
In 2014, SWANA recognized Hanson with a Special Achievement Award for outstanding service and dedication to the California Chapters Legislative Task Force, advocating for environmentally and economically sound solid waste legislation and regulations.
What She Does Day to Day
Hanson’s responsibilities relate primarily relate to the division’s regulatory and permit compliance, including several closed landfills, one active landfill, and two materials recovery facilities (MRF). Responsibilities also include planning and implementing recycling programs to comply with California’s waste reduction mandates, facility permitting, water-quality monitoring and reporting, legislative tracking, and overseeing public outreach and education program development.
What Led Her Into This Line of Work
In 1999, Hanson responded to a job ad posted in her university’s geology department for a part-time position with a Sacramento, California consulting firm. Although unfamiliar with the filed, Hanson accepted the job and “fell in love with the business,” she says, soon becoming a senior associate. Hanson earned a B.S. in environmental science from California State University, Sacramento and joined Placer County Environmental Engineering as an environmental resource specialist in 2005, promoted to senior planner within a few years.
What She Likes Best About Her Work
Hanson says she enjoys “solving challenging problems, making a positive impact on my community and working with a group of talented and dedicated employees.”
She is especially proud of the quality of service her division provides to ratepayers. “We refer to our regional recycling program as ‘One Big Bin’, with the tagline ‘You Toss, We Sort’,” she says. “It conveys the simplicity of recycling in Placer County, which allows recyclables to be mixed with the garbage and later sorted at one of our two MRFs, diverting them from the landfill.” That provides the flexibility to respond to ever-changing regulations, enabling the county and its cities to meet and exceed the state-mandated 50% diversion rate with Placer at nearly 70%. In the county’s east section, where creating defensible space on forested properties is crucial to maintain fire safe buffers around homes, the county collaborates with Tahoe Truckee Sierra Disposal and the North Tahoe Fire District to hold annual collection events at several convenient locations as well as provide free green waste disposal passes.
Hanson says she’s also proud of her staff’s informative and innovative public education campaigns, including recently releasing “fun advertisements” in local movie theaters such as the Drop ‘Em Off While You Shop campaign promoting numerous countywide battery recycling dropoff points.
Her Biggest Challenge
Keeping up with the ever-changing regulatory environment is her biggest challenge, says Hanson, adding California is focusing on recycling organic waste as a means to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from landfills. She and her staff stay abreast of new legislation and regulation, working to ensure the county complies with existing requirements such as the Mandatory Commercial Organics Recycling Act that requires certain businesses to recycle all organic waste.
“Food waste is especially challenging,” notes Hanson, adding her operation has two pilot collection programs in place and is learning as they proceed. “California has the most aggressive GHG regulations in the country, with a goal of reducing 50% of organics from landfills by 2020. That will be tough, but I’m confident our hard work will pay off.”