Debbie Branch of the city of Fort Worth and Trinity Valley High School senior Lara Turan presented the results of Turan's multifamily recycling study at the State of Texas Alliance for Recycling Summit in San Antonio​ in October. Courtesy of Debbie Branch.

Jan. 3, 2017

Like other professions, a career in environmental services can begin with an internship. It's a win-win for organizations who provide the opportunity for young students to gain some real-life experience and get help from additional staff in the process. 

Recently, Debbie Branch, Resource Recovery Planner and Keep Fort Worth Beautiful director for the city of Fort Worth, bragged on intern Lara Turan, who was enlisted to help them research the success of the city’s multifamily recycling program.

“Lara was a great intern because she needed very little supervision once she had clear direction on her project,” Branch, a 2013 Green Source DFW Sustainable Leadership Award Winner.

Turan said even before her internship she was passionate about the environment. Her father recognized her interest and inquired with the Solid Waste Services staff in Fort Worth about allowing his daughter to intern in that department. Soon the department was authorized to bring the Trinity Valley High School senior on as an intern beginning in the summer of 2015. 

“I grew up reading about the problems pollution and global warming will cause in the future if they are not adequately addressed,” Turan said. “I believe in doing my part to ensure the preservation of nature and health of the planet.” 

Branch said Turan conducted the study of the Fort Worth multifamily recycling program by creating a survey and interviewing 40 apartment managers and staff. 

Turan learned hands on how to conduct a statistical study in regard to the city’s recycling program although she had not yet taken a formal statistics class.

“Through this research I was truly introduced to the subject,” Turan said. “This internship was also my first introduction to the professional life and gave me insight into a workplace environment. I also learned about the process of working towards making positive changes in the city through the use of policy.” 

Overall, the purpose of the study was to evaluate the performance of the multifamily recycling program.

The city has been working to increase recycling and diversion from the landfill since 1985. In 2003, the city implemented a successful pay-as-you-throw program that significantly increased the amount of material recycled in residential neighborhoods, however it did not include multifamily dwellings. About 20 percent of total housing in Fort Worth consists of multifamily housing with eight or more units and many of the multifamily residents asked the city to develop a program to facilitate this type of recycling for them. In 2011, the city passed an ordinance requiring all complexes with eight or more units to implement onsite recycling opportunities by January of 2014.

Turan's study determined that the reported recycling rate for the multifamily recycling complexes in the city is now about six percent. It also took a look at the various recycling methods. Turan’s research helped the city determine the best recycling collection methods in the future for multifamily dwelling and where the recycling program has been most successful.

In October, Turan presented the results of her multifamily housing study at the State of Texas Alliance for Recycling Summit in San Antonio​. The study's recommendations for successful recycling programs in Fort Worth include increasing recycling convenience, continuing recycling education and for complexes with severe contamination, to consider moving from recycling via dumpster to a blue bag program. Branch lavished praise on her young assistant. 

“Lara was tenacious in following up with the apartment staff and her friendly manner facilitated multifamily staff answering her interview questions,” said Branch.

Planning to major in engineering at university next fall, Turan said she has not yet decided on a specific major in that area, but said she is seriously considering environmental engineering. 

“I am growing and plan on exploring my passions in college,” she said. 

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