Recycling Made Easier: Angie Park Helps Customers with a Smile

Athens Services recycling coordinators (RCs) bring in-person recycling education to residential and business customers. For the past four years, Recycling Coordinator Angie Park has brought the recycling message to the Koreatown neighborhood of Los Angeles.

Athens Services recycling coordinators (RCs) bring in-person recycling education to residential and business customers. For the past four years, Recycling Coordinator Angie Park has brought the recycling message to the Koreatown neighborhood of Los Angeles. 

Angie took a few minutes between recycling presentations to tell us about her work and her personal quest to help create more environmentally sustainable communities.

Simplifying Recycling for Koreatown Residents and Businesses 

Angie was born in Korea and moved to California in 2004. Previously, she served as a translator and taught English to native Korean speakers. That background serves her well as she conducts education and outreach to Koreatown businesses and apartment complexes.

Koreatown is home to the largest Korean-American population in the United States, estimated at more than 108,000. Less than three square miles, it is one of the most densely populated areas in the country, with more than 90 percent of residents living in rental housing. And it is one of the most diverse neighborhoods in Los Angeles, where Korean and Latino populations contribute to Koreatown’s rich cultural diversity. Koreatown is famous for its many shops, restaurants, and nightclubs, and is a popular tourist destination. 

As a recycling coordinator, Angie’s mission is to reach out to Athens customers in Koreatown and train them to sort recyclables and organic material from trash at their sites. Athens’ organic waste program diverts plant-based materials, food waste, and food-soiled paper from landfills. California requires residents and businesses to comply with AB 1826 and SB 1383 to reduce greenhouse gases.

Meeting the Challenges of Recycling Outreach and Education During the Pandemic

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Angie went door-to-door; now, she contacts customers first by phone or online meetings. She follows that with onsite visits and walk-throughs, following masking, social distance, and safety protocols. Occasionally, a site visit will last most of the day, but on most days, she visits multiple sites. Much of the training is done outside the establishment or with her outside a kitchen speaking through an open door. She does not enter apartments to conduct training.

Visits can last anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour or more, depending on the location’s size and the complexity of its recycling needs. Some take all day. Angie tours kitchens and examines trash enclosures to get an overview of how much waste they produce, what types, and how it is managed. 

At every facility, she provides posters and other signage to display near waste or recycling containers. She also hands out recycling resources, such as booklets and guides, including recycling tips for building owners, employees, and tenants.

“The reality is that a lot of customers don’t know how to recycle, and it’s my responsibility to help them understand what materials go in the trash and what goes to recycling.”

Her primary focus is helping restaurants and other businesses that have dining areas sort, separate, and place their organic waste – primarily food scraps – into the proper container. She ensures that sites have internal recycling containers and the proper signage to comply with recycling laws.

A Passion for Teaching and Making a Difference

Angie finds it rewarding to meet new people, help them with their recycling needs, and build relationships. She is a self-proclaimed recycling nerd. “One customer said they had never seen anyone get so excited about trash! It’s my passion; I love sharing my knowledge with different audiences.” 

Angie lives in Burbank with her husband, Stephen, and 11-year-old son, Shawn. She enjoys making “fusion” sushi rolls, photography, hiking, and tending to a small garden on her apartment balcony in her spare time. “It’s my ‘Angie cave.’ It makes me so calm. Plants give me peace.”

She practices what she preaches, using the correct waste and recycling containers in her home. She posts used items on Facebook in a local “Buy Nothing” group, where participants can donate or find items at no cost.

“My husband washes every plastic container before putting them into the recycling bin. I do a waste assessment whenever I visit my friends and give them recycling tips!”

Angie was promoted recently to Lead Recycling Coordinator. In her new role, she mentors new hires, trains other recycling coordinators, and assists her manager. 

“What I like most about my work is sharing my passion with my customers, building great relationships with customers, and working with talented people from various departments. I enjoy seeing customers who never had recycling programs now doing an amazing job. That inspires me, and it’s so rewarding!” Athens is hiring recycling coordinators like Angie! If you’re interested, you can view open positions and apply at athensservices.com/careers.