Sarah Hanrahan, Waste and Street Scene

Sarah - Intern 2019"I am currently a Mathematics student at the University of Warwick. When I started applying for summer internships, I did not have a specific role in mind. My main criterion was that I would like to find something I am interested in, and passionate about. In the future, I want to work to make a difference, not just earn a living. So, when I read about the waste and recycling internship, I knew instantly that wanted to give it a go.

I have been passionate about the environment for a long time, and in the last few years I have become much more aware of the footprint we leave on our planet in the form of waste, especially plastics. This internship has allowed me to use my skills to explore this issue in order to find ways to reduce the impact of waste.

Firstly, I started off by analysing the data that each individual bin lorry collects, by round. This had not been done before and enabled me to identify certain issues and traits with regards to household waste in the different parts of West Suffolk. During this process, I also identified areas where the collection of the data could be improved.

The next step in the process, was to identify two rounds which would become the focus of my case studies. These rounds were selected based on their performance, and their potential for improvement in recycling rate.

After having selected the rounds, I went out with the crews on the collections to investigate the bin contents. Whilst doing so, I identified that contamination of the recycling bins was a much larger problem than the data I had analysed suggested, which shifted the focus of my project.

By looking at the root causes of contamination and recycling rates, I have developed an action plan to tackle these issues. Some of the solutions I have been able to carry out myself, such as informative bin stickers, and others I will leave for different members of my team to continue with after I have left.

I have really enjoyed the internship so far, it has been a wonderful opportunity for me to learn more about waste management, and to try and make a positive impact on our world."