Sue Maki: IRC Recycling Rock Star
Updated: Sep 15, 2021
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Sue Maki has a pioneer spirit that looks toward an uncharted frontier and sees an array of possibilities. In her personal life she regularly recycles, and she can trace this habit back to the 1980s before it was adopted as a practice by many.
As the Manager of Environmental Initiatives and Education for City of Carmel Utilities, Maki shows leadership by leveraging productive ideas into regular practice in Hamilton County. For example, Maki spearheaded the challenge to create a uniform trash hauling and recycling program for all residents of Carmel. This includes weekly curbside recycling for all residents, which later expanded to include small businesses in the city.
Like many strong leaders, Maki seeks to emulate effective practices around the country. She discovered a utility company in Florida that held educational classes for the public about their utilities. Recognizing the program’s success, Maki founded the Citizens Utility Academy for Carmel residents. Today, the Citizens Utility Academy provides a six-week course with classes about water quality and conservation, household and hazardous waste issues, and recycling. Academy participants particularly love the class tour of Republic Services’ materials recovery facility. Maki also works with local schools to help committees navigate recycling initiatives in their buildings.
Another Maki-led program is the recycling of holiday lights. By partnering with local businesses to accept the unwanted lights and the firm Technology Recyclers to recycle the lights, over 12,000 pounds of holiday lights have been diverted from landfill and incineration over the years. The valuable copper wire and plastic parts get recycled and reintroduced to our circular economy.
Maki loves recycling, but her real message is about reducing the amount of waste we generate in the first place. For her, it is important to reuse materials and products whenever possible. Reducing and reusing may be harder for many people to put into practice, but pioneers like Maki make an impact by helping others explore those frontiers.
Written by David Johnson