Throughout her career, Kim Braun has observed the evolution in the processing of all types of waste materials and says, “I am still fascinated by the ever-changing programs and technologies being created to manage waste globally.” Braun, manager of the Culver City, CA’s Public Works Department’s Environmental Programs & Operations Division (EPO), has been a leader in the creation of programs and technologies, such as the distribution of a customized video inside of a brochure to educate about the city’s polystyrene ban. Other EPO projects include a stormwater diversion and rain garden at its transfer station. Braun oversees in-house waste, recycling and organics collection, and processing operations for all commercial and residential accounts, construction and demolition collection and recycling programs, a 500-ton per day transfer station, street sweeping, and stormwater and wastewater services.
What She Does Day to Day
Braun’s daily activities involve managing EPO’s refuse and stormwater enterprise funds, collections, and processing and disposal programs; reviewing proposals for stormwater diversion project design and construction; and developing bid specifications and proposals for a variety of programs, services, and equipment. She completes mandatory reporting requirements for waste generation, the stormwater MS4 permit, and wastewater. Braun completes grant applications and conducts workshops and programs for the community and city council and at waste conferences. She researches new software technologies and alternative disposal technologies, reviews the budget to determine cost savings without giving up service levels, and reviews rates and fees to ensure the best service at the most cost-effective rate. Braun is a member of SWANA’s newly formed recycling task force and a public director representative for SWANA’s Southern California Founding Chapter’s Executive Board.
What Led Her Into This Line of Work
Braun graduated from Michigan State University and earned an M.A. degree in public affairs from American University. She went to work as a budget analyst for Mercer County, NJ, and was employed in budget-related jobs for the state of New Jersey and the Mercer County Improvement Authority, where she served as director of operations, overseeing solid waste responsibilities. In 1997, she relocated to Santa Monica, CA, to serve as the solid waste division’s materials recovery superintendent. Braun led Santa Monica’s resource recovery and recycling (RRR) crew, which earned SWANA Gold for its waste collection and disposal operations as well as street sweeping and pressure-washing. A routing program which saved the city more than $1 million in costs was awarded the SWANA Gold Excellence Award for collections innovation. RRR’s marketing program earned SWANA Silver for the programs promoted by its education and outreach team, ranging from traditional approaches to innovative ones such as reverse vending machines and “Curby,” a robotic mascot leased out for children’s programs. Media outreach includes Braun’s YouTube “Zero Waste 101” 2012 TedX Talk. After attaining success in Santa Monica for nearly 20 years, Braun took up on an opportunity for professional growth with the city of Culver City.
What She Likes Best About Her Work
“I love the opportunities afforded to the entire Culver City Environmental Programs & Operations team through our progressive leadership,” says Braun. Culver City Council’s plans for citywide sustainability, climate action, water conservation, clean water, and waste diversion paved the way for new initiatives, such as Culver City’s new food recovery program, which aims at recovering 20% of all food generated from food preparation and retail establishments by 2025 and a public-private partnership with Costco for an innovative stormwater diversion project. Braun says she enjoys learning from other solid waste industry colleagues about new programs, technologies, software, training opportunities, and using social media for industry promotion. Her favorite part of her job is assisting the community in achieving its sustainability goals and sharing that progress industrywide.
Her Greatest Challenge
The China trade barriers have become Braun’s biggest challenge, she says. “It has become a financial burden on many communities, resulting in rate increases to continue recycling programs and/or landfilling of materials that would otherwise be recycled,” she says. “It necessitates community education and engagement to lower contamination levels, assistance from manufacturers to take back their products, planning an internal infrastructure for processing materials, developing alternative disposal technologies that produce viable energy sources, and identifying landfills incorporating sustainable practices to continue to accept those forever-remaining residuals.”