Johanne Ramdal, Project Manager at TOMRA Collection Solutions HQ in Norway, has recently returned from working with Engineers Without Borders in Zimbabwe for the project “Waste to Value”, to suggest solutions for the plastic litter problem in the local community. Rachel Draper, Marketing Activations Manager in Australia, and Kristine M. Berg, Circular Economy Advisor at headquarters, will this year join as crew members on the eXXpedition ocean plastic research voyage to track and raise awareness of marine litter.
What is your role at TOMRA Collection?
Rachel: As container deposit schemes are new to some states in Australia, the focus of my work is to educate the community on the benefits of deposit return and to encourage participation. This involves a wide variety of activities including reviewing and improving the recycler experience, launching into new states, sponsorship of events and conferences, branding and activation of new return points, management of large campaigns such as “Bottles for the Bush”, and much much more.
Johanne: I work as a project manager in TOMRA Collection Solutions, mainly for reverse vending machine development projects. My daily work consists of cooperation with my project team and everybody influenced by my projects to make sure we reach the targets of the projects. The development projects are complex as there are always many aspects to keep in mind like customer expectations, supply chain, legislations, time and new technology. To manage all these aspects, I need to use both my technical insight from my chemical engineering background and my project management education and experience.
Kristine: My background is in political science, with a technical degree in Industrial Ecology – the science behind circular economy. This has great outlets for me in my role as I love diversity of tasks and working with the bigger picture. I do lots of outreach work, being an internal and external ambassador, and head up our sponsorship collaborations from HQ, which extend into ocean plastic research and upcycling innovation projects. Part of my job is to also be a go-to for insights and knowledge on ocean plastics and circular economy.
What motivated you to take this career path?
Rachel: I have worked to educate communities on solutions to protect our environment for 8+ years. My time and energy moved to fighting pollution when I saw the effects of waste washing up on my local beach. I realised the solution was everyone’s responsibility – so started a weekly beach clean, encouraging school children to join and learn about the issues firsthand. I also worked to discourage the use of single-use coffee cups, and set up my own clothes swap program to reduce the purchase of fast fashion. I’ve always been inspired by creating change. Having a platform to educate people on the impacts of their choices and seeing them change their behaviours has kept me fighting this war on waste.
Johanne: I am a “nerd” that grew up on a farm, with a strong passion for nature and a strong feeling of the dependency we all have on nature and what it gives us. In this job, my technical interest gets triggered by the things I learn every day from the experts in my team. The fact that we together develop solutions that ultimately reduce plastic in nature is what makes me so passionate about this job. It feels meaningful from a personal and professional perspective, and something to get up for every morning.
Kristine: When everyone else in my class at school was reading pony magazines and trying mascara, I obsessed over nature documentaries, read National Geographic for Kids and had tadpoles as pets. My family has always been ocean people, and the ocean was my inspiration for pursing more technical studies at university. I wanted to really understand sustainability and be part of defining it, setting the standard – which is exactly what is so interesting with working for TOMRA, which is world leading in such an important industry.
How would you encourage more women to choose a career in your field?
Rachel: Follow your passion and realize your worth. Experience does not only come from paid work, so you can spend some time volunteering to discover which field you want to focus your energy on. We all have skills and knowledge that are valuable to others, so embrace what you know and stick to your values.
Johanne: I thought it was difficult to choose myself, as I had several interests. For girls that like the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects, I always encourage them to pursue this area. In general, these are subjects that require hard work during education, but the reward is the cool jobs that you will get afterwards. You invest your hard work in the ability to make an impact for the rest of your career, no matter your field of specialization.
Kristine: Figure out what kind of problem you want to help solve in the world, and focus less on the degree you think you need. Having a somewhat untraditional combo of education and experience myself, the defining thing for me has been the broad understanding of the issues that I am passionate about solving. Through the professional and personal networks that followed from that, I found my own voice and I always encourage women to be different and bring passion to their work.