Recent NU Graduate Introducing Waste Management Solutions at Local Level

Alumna Ivonne Vaughn (MPA, 2016) is a living, breathing example of the maxim: think globally, act locally. She manages the Recycling Solid Waste section of the City of Vacaville in Solano County, California and says her education at National University has helped to make her a better, more efficient professional.

Ms. Vaughn has worked in the government sector for many years. She was originally a Program Coordinator for her local police department before transferring to her current department.  “I love my job working with businesses and residents on recycling, policy, and legislature. I am proud to be a public servant,” she added.

The National University alumna is basically a one-person department. “In Solano County, that’s pretty much how it is,” she explained. People working for the government often have to make the most of limited resources, but what Ms. Vaughn does have in abundance is a passion for her work.  She takes a lot of pride in making citizens aware of recycling and waste management issues.

It’s a big deal across the United States. Much bigger, in fact, than experts previously thought.  A 2015 study by the journal, Nature Climate Change, reveals that landfills across the country are taking in more than twice as much solid waste as previously estimated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.  To highlight this, Ms. Vaughn says that the city of San Francisco has begun bringing its waste to Solano, because its landfills are reaching capacity.

The solutions to this national problem will most likely come at the local level, city-by-city and dump-by-dump. In Vacaville, Ms. Vaughn goes out into the community and presents ways to reduce solid waste at eco-fairs and other venues.

“I try to inform people about purchasing practices and get them to visualize the end life of various products,” she said. Equipped with her experience and a Master of Public Administration degree, the Solid Waste Manager emphasizes recycling and talks about the importance of reducing the volume that goes into landfills.

“I also inform businesses and residents of extended producer responsibility, in which producers take more responsibility for their packaging and the products they produce,” she added. “There are programs emerging for recycling single products, such as mattresses and motor oil, and they are becoming more prominent. Certain materials are being regulated or prohibited. In the city of Vacaville, we do not recycle Styrofoam. Some municipalities are banning Styrofoam altogether, and many manufacturers are working to comply.”

Ms. Vaughn enrolled at National University through a partnership it has with the City of Vacaville, and she attended classes and studied with government officials from neighboring communities, including Rancho Cordova, Stockton, and Sacramento.  Regarding her MPA degree, she said, “The program helped me to develop individual and institutional capacity for community-based public practices.”

Thanks in large part to her efforts, the new alumna reported, “We have many people in Vacaville who are aware of new legislature that requires commercial organic recycling.” Organic waste is being diverted from the landfill by source separating, meaning it’s either donated as feed stock or separated curbside into green receptacles, so that it can be processed differently in order to reduce solid waste.

For more information about recycling in the City of Vacaville, click here.