Jordan Strater '19

A chance to develop rare expertise and work on solving recycling industry crisis
Jordan Strater presents at Northeast Resource Recovery Association annual membership meeting.

Jordan Strater '19, an environmental and resource economics major, is interning at the Northeast Resource Recovery Association, where she’s researching a solution to a serious problem facing towns and the recycling industry. 

COLSA: Tell us about your internship.

Jordan Strater: I am the Mixed Paper Research and Marketing Intern for the Northeast Resource Recovery Association (NRRA). The NRRA provides cooperative purchasing programs, educational and networking opportunities, technical assistance, and cooperative marketing programs that have received national recognition for establishing innovative grassroots recyclables marketing cooperatives with competitive pricing, which enable small, rural and large urban communities to manage their own recycling programs.

China has placed a ban on imported recycling from the United States, which has caused a crisis in the recycling industry. Transfer stations went from being paid for their mixed paper to having to pay to dispose of it at landfills. My job is to find a solution for the mixed paper through research and market analysis, and to determine if mixed paper animal bedding is a viable solution.

COLSA: What attracted you to the position? Why did you want the internship?

Strater: The NRRA is very passionate about the work they do solving problems in the waste industry. Their work is always relevant and important, and I was drawn to the chance to solve a very big problem many people aren’t aware of. It’s an industry I wasn’t completely familiar with going into this internship, so it has been a great learning opportunity.

COLSA: Looking back on what you accomplished as an intern, what are you most proud of?

Strater: I’m proud to be contributing to the solution of an enormous problem in the United States. My presentation at the NRRA Annual Meeting was well received by members and it reaffirmed that what I’m doing is helping a lot of people.

COLSA: What was the most valuable thing you learned?

Strater: My analytical skills have definitely improved since beginning my internship. There isn’t much existing research on using mixed paper as bedding, so it’s involved a lot of phone calls and emails to different people who may have knowledge on the subject. A lot of the studies I’ve looked at have been about similar topics, such as using newspaper as bedding, so it’s been important to pull out data from the studies that relate to my work.

COLSA: In what way(s) has this experience impacted you?

Strater: I’ve learned a lot about a topic that no one really discusses or knows about. Many people I talk to aren’t even aware of the recycling crisis and what has happening at our transfer stations and landfills. It has made me aware of the importance of education for the general public about such a crucial component of our society.

COLSA: Finally, any advice for students looking for an internship?

Strater: Don’t be afraid of what appears to be a difficult internship. You may not know absolutely everything about a topic or how to solve every problem you come across, but internships are for learning as well as applying the knowledge you do have. An internship that teaches you along the way is very valuable, and in my experience more enjoyable.

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