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Climate and Environment

The 'Waste Warriors' Are Back To The Rescue In Burbank

An image of a man wearing a green cape and black-rimmed glasses pulling apart the front of his suit to reveal a green shirt with a recycling symbol.
The campaign for Burbank's free "Waste Warriors" course for residents.
(Courtesy City of Burbank)
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Maybe you’ve tried to avoid plastic-wrapped food at the grocery store to cut back on your personal trash footprint. But often, that’s just not possible.

“It's not your fault that when you go to the grocery store and you want to do better, you don't have more choices,” said Amy Hammes, the city of Burbank’s recycling specialist. “The fact is that we need to not only look at ourselves, we need to demand more.”

Burbank's "Waste Warriors" Program
  • The program is free for Burbank residents and consists of 8 classes that run January through March. The first class is on January 14. You can get more details and sign up here.

And after a pandemic hiatus, Burbank is re-starting its popular — and free — program to help residents learn how. The “Waste Warriors” program is an in-depth course on how the waste and recycling systems work. It’s one of only a handful of similar city-run programs across the country.

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Hammes calls it “a starter kit” to understanding, and ultimately reforming, waste management…otherwise known as trash and recycling. She leads the 8-class course that starts January 14 and runs through March. It’s free to Burbank residents, but only 25 people can join per cohort. If you don’t get in this time, you’re put on a waitlist for the next one, Hammes said.

“I think when you talk about waste or trash, that's always like the icky part of society,” Hammes said. “Jurisdictions like ours have been tasked to manage it. And so it's basically you, as the public, throw it away and it goes away from you, right? But that product doesn't go away. It just goes somewhere else, to be ‘managed.’ And over time, you can only manage so much before you're overwhelmed.”

The course goes through the basics of “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle,” which Hammes frames as a descending list of priorities, not just take-your-pick options. And the course not only goes deeper into those basics, it goes beyond them.

“I call it a Masters in Disposal Reality,” Hammes said, chuckling.

Throughout the course, residents learn the nitty gritty of recycling and waste management. Hammes also highlights systemic solutions. In the end, participants brainstorm their own fixes.

“We really need the public to understand how this all works so then we can demand better solutions,” Hammes said.

“Waste Warriors” have taken what they’ve learned to their own workplaces, their childrens’ schools and even started their own businesses or changed careers, Hammes said. Her goal is to get the program adopted in cities and counties across the state.

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