Introducing 8 Great Women of Waste at Athens on International Women’s Day

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International Women’s Day (March 8) is a global holiday celebrating women’s social, economic, cultural, and political achievements. Athens Services recognizes the achievements of women everywhere.

International Women’s Day (March 8) is a global holiday celebrating women’s social, economic, cultural, and political achievements. Athens Services recognizes the achievements of women everywhere.

Athens supports gender diversity in the waste and recycling industry. We are proud to have several women on our team at all levels of the organization. While we would love to feature all of the exceptional women of Athens in observance of International Women’s Day, we can only feature a few. Here are eight outstanding Athens women:

Jessica Aldridge

Jessica AldridgeSustainability and Zero Waste Programs Director

Name: Jessica Aldridge

Title: Sustainability and Zero Waste Programs Director

Joined Athens: 2012

Primary duties: I work to advance Athens Services’ environmental and zero waste goals. I oversee companywide food recovery/donation efforts, zero waste programs, and outreach and education projects. I also serve as government affairs liaison for the city of Los Angeles. 

Why did you choose the waste/recycling industry? It was a natural fit. I grew up loving and wanting to protect the environment. I started my high school’s first recycling program. When working for a hospital, I created a point-by-point recycling plan. That’s when I first heard about zero waste (14 years ago). I was intrigued with the full lifecycle process of waste and what it meant for the environmental movement. I was determined to make it a career. 

Why did you choose Athens?  My goal was to work for a waste hauler. I wanted a local company that supports and encourages staff. A friend forwarded the sustainability manager position to me, and the rest is history.   

What have been some of your biggest challenges? Every individual is unique. The way we learn and absorb information, what grabs our attention, what we care most about – it differs, person to person. Understanding those nuances and applying that knowledge to educating our clientele to produce behavioral changes is a rewarding challenge. 

What is your favorite part of the job? My utmost favorite part is interacting with and learning from staff across the company. We have an extraordinary, smart, and experienced team. I get to figure out how to apply that combined knowledge into effective programs and content. 

What advice would you give to other women and young girls? Be true to yourself. Don’t be hesitant to pave your own path. Ask for what you want and take risks. Explore what makes you happy. Above all, be kind to yourself; take the necessary time to rest and refuel your power.

Jennifer Cilloniz

Jennifer CillonizZero Waste and Organics Manager

Name: Jennifer Cilloniz

Title: Zero Waste and Organics Manager 

Joined Athens: 2007

Primary duties: I manage recycling coordinators and assist our cities in complying with state recycling regulations, such as AB 341 and AB 1826. 

Why did you choose the waste/recycling industry? In a way, it chose me. I started in 1998 working in the accounting department for another waste company. I worked in different roles and departments, learning all aspects of the industry. I have done almost everything except drive a truck. I fell in love with it. I can’t see myself doing anything else. 

Why did you choose Athens? I like the fact that it is a family-owned business. I felt Athens would treat employees with respect and appreciation, and I was right. I am happy to be working for a great company. And I have enjoyed learning more about this great industry.

What have been some of your biggest challenges? One of my biggest and most rewarding challenges has been educating customers about how our employees work above and beyond for our customers. 

What is your favorite part of the job? What I enjoy most is training and mentoring others. I always say it’s an industry that will be around forever. 

What advice would you give to other women and young girls? Even though this industry might not seem luxurious, it has been amazing for me, and it will be for them also. 

Evelyn Cornejo

Evelyn CornejoDirector of Employee Relations

Name:  Evelyn Cornejo 

Title:  Director of Employee Relations 

Joined Athens: 2003

Primary duties: My goal is to help people – customers and employees alike. 

Why did you choose the waste/recycling industry?  I care about recycling and protecting the environment for our children and our children’s children. 

Why did you choose Athens? I wanted to learn about trash, and I felt it was an interesting and stable industry. 

What have been some of your biggest challenges? I am concerned for our daughters’ futures. I am always looking for ways to inspire others to take a seat at every table in any room. I hope they will do this not just for themselves, but also for the many brilliant women who are with us and will come after us! 

What is your favorite part of the job? I find empowerment as a woman by helping others find their strengths and watching them succeed. I love to share my knowledge, experiences, and even my failures to help those around me. I hope to help create a world where we ALL have equal opportunities to succeed in all aspects of life without any limitations or restrictions. If I can influence that world now, I’m going for it! 

What advice would you give to other women and young girls?  I think it’s important for women to follow their hearts and minds and go after what they want. I love to see women, young and old, being themselves authentically. Be brave, be courageous, and if you hear the word no, ask why or why not. Your passion will drive you in the end.

Maria Lopez

Maria LopezResidential Route Driver, Norwalk

Name: Maria Lopez

Title:  Residential Route Driver, Norwalk

Joined Athens: 2020

Primary duties: I pick up two residential routes per day, one for trash and one for recyclables. I take the loads to Athens’ City of Industry materials recovery facility. Monday is the busiest day. I have also done routes in Montebello, Pico Rivera, and Rowland Heights. 

Why did you choose the waste/recycling industry? I used to drive a semi, and it was hard to predict when I would be home. I saw trash drivers came home every day and were home on weekends. And trash never ends; the work will always be there. I enjoy it; I love it. 

Why did you choose Athens? I talked to some employees and was told that it was a good company. I know people who have worked 25-30 years here. That kind of loyalty says a lot about a company. 

What have been some of your biggest challenges? Every day is a challenge; I love it! There’s never a dull moment. The most challenging areas to service are narrow streets, cul-de-sacs, and areas with heavy traffic. Every week I learn something new. Every day is different. I feel like my work is improving every week.

What is your favorite part of the job? I enjoy being outdoors. The customers I come across are very nice. They want to talk with you. They’re amazed to see a woman driver; they bring out their girls to see it. Customers always stop to give me water, and they give me great feedback. I like being challenged and learning. This work is what I love to do the most. I take a lot of pride in it.

What advice would you give to other women and young girls? Anything is possible. Women who see me driving ask about a commercial driver’s license. I advise them to get the license and drive. Women can do this job just as well as men or better. It’s all about providing good customer service, doing a good job, and staying focused on safety as the most important part of the job. Navigate your way and find what you enjoy.

Marcela Anaya

Marcela (Mancia) AnayaMunicipal Account Manager

Name: Marcela (Mancia) Anaya

Title: Municipal Account Manager 

Joined Athens: 2017

Primary duties: I am currently transitioning from a recycling coordinator position to a new role as a municipal account manager. My primary duties are to continue engaging with customers, introducing them to new legislation, and increasing waste diversion. I’m also helping my department and Athens Services reach the State’s zero waste goals. 

Why did you choose the waste/recycling industry? I’ve been interested in issues around waste and climate change since I was a teenager. Waste is usually given no value, and once it is out of view, people forget about it. I learned how cities manage their waste, and I realized I wanted to be part of this industry. I hope I can continue to create awareness and bring about change in our communities to have a healthier environment and planet.

Why did you choose Athens? I knew I wanted to explore environmental issues. Still, I was not sure how my public relations background would help me do that. After graduating, as I was looking for a job, I heard Athens Services was hiring recycling coordinators. When I joined in 2017, I was surprised to see many young individuals being given an opportunity to learn and be part of this organization. I found Athens to be a place where I want to grow and continue to develop my career.

What have been some of your biggest challenges? Having to encourage people to recycle and be open-minded about change requires a lot of patience and consistency. I overcome those challenges by staying positive and confident in my skills and knowledge. 

What is your favorite part of the job? My favorite part of this industry and this job is being able to see behind the scenes. Visiting our materials recovery facilities, working with our drivers, and meeting different people along the way are all exciting opportunities that no other job could offer. I feel proud to be part of an organization that cares for its employees, the communities it serves, and the environment. Being part of the waste industry is something I’ve enjoyed and will continue to enjoy for the rest of my career.

What advice would you give to other women and young girls? Continue to ask questions, learn, be confident with their skills, and take risks. Women are such a vital part of the waste industry; we can do so much more than we can imagine. There is so much to learn about this industry. 

Amanda Mejia

Amanda MejiaSenior Government Affairs Manager

Name: Amanda Mejia 

Title: Senior Government Affairs Manager 

Joined Athens: 2017 

Primary duties: I serve as government liaison for municipal elected and administrative officials in Los Angeles and the South Bay. I provide critical support to customers, ratepayers, media, business, and community organizations. My goal is to ensure that Athens’ messages, initiatives, and goals are met while serving as a liaison to our internal stakeholders in operations.

Why did you choose the waste/recycling industry? Previously, I supported constituents throughout the City of Los Angeles on multiple topics. They included public safety, homelessness, economic development, environmental justice, and youth development. I wanted to focus and become an expert in one line of business. My passion for growing professionally led me to a position in the industry. 

Why did you choose Athens? The fact that Athens is a local, family-owned company led me to believe that this was the right fit. I sought a work environment in the private sector that was similar to the public sector. Athens provides a sense of community and familiarity and strives to serve people. 

What have been some of your biggest challenges? One of the biggest challenges is that I am a young Latina woman. To some, the waste and recycling industry is a “man’s job.” To be successful in this field, I have dedicated my time to understand the industry, including becoming an expert on our internal operations. 

What is your favorite part of the job? My favorite part is to be educated and to educate others, all while building relationships. 

What advice would you give to other women and young girls? Be bold, unafraid, unapologetic, and willing to get out of your comfort zone. We set the standard we want to see in society, and it’s up to us as women to show young girls that anything is possible. Empower yourself to ask questions, speak up, and find your seat at the table.

Gabby Munoz

Gabby MunozConstruction Business Development Manager

Name: Gabby Munoz

Title:  Construction Business Development Manager

Joined Athens: 2019

Primary duties: I develop sales strategies, build and strengthen relationships, and manage accounts. My specific area is new developments, primarily large construction projects throughout greater Los Angeles. I reach out to these customers, educate them regarding what waste is, and help them comply with ordinances.

Why did you choose the waste/recycling industry? I started when I was very young. Once I got my foot in the door, I found that I liked it. I developed a passion for waste. Every business, large or small, generates waste – from Disneyland to Panda Express. The sky’s the limit. 

Why did you choose Athens?  I came from a large corporation. I like the fact that Athens is local and family-owned. The culture here is a right fit for me and my career. All the initiatives from Athens are focused on this area, not the national level. It’s easier to pitch an idea for an initiative and roll it out.

What have been some of your biggest challenges? It can be challenging to help customers meet zero waste goals and to educate the workforce on-site to segregate materials to the proper containers. They’re highly motivated, but it can be difficult to implement recycling at a large worksite. We’re there to educate our customers to meet their objectives.

What is your favorite part of the job? We are partaking in the beautification of cities. We put our little piece of the puzzle to help these new developments and large, beautiful buildings come to life. 

What advice would you give to other women and young girls? Regardless of life challenges, we have to believe in ourselves always. Learn from our experiences, never be afraid to think outside of the box. 

Elizabeth Ramirez

Elizabeth (Liz) RamirezDirector of Government Affairs

Name: Elizabeth (Liz) Ramirez

Title:  Director of Government Affairs

Joined Athens: 2017

Primary duties: I am responsible for gathering, interpreting, and informing executive management on potential business risks and opportunities. I engage our local communities and keep Athens’ Government Affairs team updated regarding cities, legislation, competition, and trends affecting the industry. 

Why did you choose the waste/recycling industry? It sounded interesting and challenging, and I like a challenge. It has been the best decision I have made, as I am constantly learning in this role. 

Why did you choose Athens?  I was familiar with Athens as they provide trash service in my community and have always been involved with our city. I knew the Athens representative where I live. She always talked about how Athens was a great company. When an opportunity came for me to join the team, it was an easy decision.

What have been some of your biggest challenges? Ensuring our city councils and staff understand our service’s complexities, the challenges of recycling, and the various recycling laws is an ongoing challenge. Because the laws continue to evolve, there are impacts to ratepayers. This past year, in particular, was more challenging because of the pandemic. Still, because of the great relationships our team has, we were able to work well with our cities. 

What is your favorite part of the job? We have great people! I enjoy learning about what they do and how my work impacts their part of the business. I enjoy working with our cities and communities, helping them resolve complex issues relating to waste and recycling. In a way, we are an extension of city staff.

What advice would you give to other women and young girls? Understanding how to work with people is important to growth and development. Knowing your audience and communicating in a way that resonates with them is key. Learn how the entire company works and how what you do affects the organization as a whole. Try to find a mentor. I have been fortunate to have worked with many leaders – men and women – who have mentored me throughout my career. Having someone who is experienced and willing to provide insight and guidance is invaluable.