116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Karmin McShane said she first got interested in her line of work after asking herself some tough questions as a consumer and a parent.
“I got to thinking and asking myself, what are we buying? What are we throwing away? And what are we going to do with all this stuff?”
She went back to school and earned her master’s degree in environmental planning, which led to working for the Cedar Rapids Linn County Solid Waste Agency.
“My job really aligns with my belief that I want to leave this planet better than I found it. It’s a huge global issue and I get to help address it here in Linn County,” she said.
McShane has worked at the agency for more than two decades, serving as the executive director since 2004.
“We're looking at solid waste, greenhouse gases and renewable energy — a comprehensive plan is what’s driving the future,” McShane said.
“It isn’t just about the garbage in your garbage can. Waste affects everything, from industry down to the curbside.”
This past year was a challenge, especially as it relates to the derecho and storm clean up.
“We are always planning for when our site is going to be full and with a storm like we had we lost years,” McShane said.
“Strategic planning is always a big goal and our board of directors is always focused on what the future will look like. We look at ways to divert waste because we are filling up faster.
“We learned a lot of lessons in the flood that way. We know more about shingles, about how they pack and how they settle, now with the mass volumes of shingles we have coming in."
Under McShane’s direction, the agency has received numerous awards and has been recognized for excellence, especially when it comes to innovative and environmentally conscious approaches to dealing with waste.
“We have the largest hazardous waste facility in the state of Iowa,” she said. “All of your chemicals and materials in your garage that you need to get rid of, we are managing them here properly.
“And we have the largest compost facility in the state as well.”
The agency also does tree giveaways, raises butterflies and uses goats in waste management.
“We try to be cutting edge and research projects that are going to ultimately help in the long-term solutions to help us deal with generating garbage.”
One of the projects that has been particularly meaningful, McShane said, is the transformation of Mount Trashmore.
“If you haven’t been up there yet, let me tell you the view at the top is wonderful,” she aid. “And it's pretty progressive for a landfill.”
Business 380 spotlights some of HER Magazine’s Women of Achievement, published by The Gazette. The awards were sponsored by Farmers State Bank.