Geography student interns with Recycle Corp

A geography intern standing in the middle of recycled materials.

Junior Geography major Catherine Kato spent much of her summer sifting through garbage, recycling, and compost bins. As an intern with Recycle Corp at Waste Management’s northwest division in Kirkland, she worked alongside a team of thirteen other interns to promote proper recycling, composting, and waste reduction. Part of her work involved carefully sorting through various receptacles to calculate diversion rates, the percentage of waste deposited in correct bins. One unfortunate finding for Kato was the large amount of dog poop that was placed in recycling bins.

She analyzed waste from municipalities throughout the Puget Sound region. Her team then performed relevant outreach, targeting areas with lower recycling rates and coming up with strategies for increasing proper disposal. Kato worked with property managers of multi-family units to ensure adequate capacity for various receptacle types. Over the course of the ten week summer internship, Kato and her colleagues worked with 9,800 customers, visited 1,185 commercial sites and 283 multi-family properties, and hosted 74 events in 24 communities throughout Puget Sound region.

Kato is following up on her summer internship through an independent study with Professor Michael Brown this autumn quarter. She is writing a paper, reflecting on her personal experiences and how they relate to recycling behavior and social pressures that influence recycling rates.