Eureka Recycling, a nonprofit recycler based in the Twin Cities area, has announced Katie Drews and Miriam Holsinger will become the organization’s co-presidents on Dec. 18.
Drews and Holsinger say Eureka’s co-president model is part of the organization's aim to foster a diverse and inclusive workforce, especially as the waste and recycling industry continues to evolve. Drews is the organization’s first woman of color in the role.
The two will assume leadership from Kate Davenport and Lynn Hoffman, who have served as co-presidents since 2016. Davenport and Hoffman will temporarily stay with the organization to help with the transition, but they plan to leave Eureka in early 2024, they said in a joint letter.
Founded in 2001, Eureka’s Minneapolis MRF processes between 400 and 450 tons per day. It also provides curbside recycling service in Saint Paul and some surrounding suburbs. Eureka, which calls itself a “zero waste laboratory,” offers MRF services and advocates for zero waste and reuse policies in Minnesota and throughout the U.S. As part of its environmental mission, all of the recyclables it processes go to markets in the U.S., with 90% sold in the Midwest.
“Eureka is unique in that we are nonprofit, and we do have really strong operations, but we are also doing this to move the needle and change systems that perpetuate waste,” said Drews, who joined Eureka in 2021. “We're not just one thing, and this really supports having diverse leadership and having really robust and creative ideas in order to tackle these really big challenges.”
Having two leaders also gives Drews and Holsinger space to bounce ideas off each other and bring in a variety of perspectives, they said.
“We're balancing our operational needs. Even though we're not-for-profit, we run our operations as for-profit business units with our mission of trying to demonstrate waste is preventable,” Holsinger said. “We’re playing the game, and then we're also figuring out how to change the game to make it better for everyone. Having two people really helps us balance those two things at the same time.”
Holsinger has worked in the recycling and waste industry for over 20 years, 17 of which have been for Eureka, she said. She currently serves as the vice president of operations and business intelligence. Drews, who is currently the senior vice president, came to the industry with a background in both nonprofit and corporate settings where she worked on workforce development, business strategy and marketing leadership.
Their partnership will be especially beneficial as the company continues to work on big initiatives in 2024 and beyond, they said.
Eureka is known for its work advocating for national recycling policy initiatives and is in the midst of supporting numerous policy initiatives related to extended producer responsibility and deposit return systems, Drews said. It is also a founding member of the Alliance of Mission-Based Recyclers.
“We are at a pretty pivotal moment for recycling and zero waste,” she said. “There’s a lot on the horizon.”
Reuse initiatives are another important growth area for the organization, said Holsinger, who also serves on board of the nonprofit Reuse Minnesota, which works with businesses to promote reuse strategies.
Recycling remains a key effort for Eureka, but the organization sees it as one component of a larger zero waste strategy, Holsinger added. “When we look at recycling through a zero waste lens, we're asking ourselves, ‘Is this benefiting our community? Is this benefiting our economy? Is this benefiting the environment?' So we're not just recycling to recycle.”
As one of just a few sizable nonprofit recyclers in the U.S., Drews and Holsinger say they have a responsibility to demonstrate ways that recycling can positively impact communities and the environment while also providing a positive work environment. The organization has almost 150 employees, and every position receives full-time pay and the same benefits, they said.
“It is a pretty dangerous industry, and making sure people are protected and valued and supported is why we think that mission-based nonprofit work in this sector is important,” Drews said.
Drews and Holsinger will transition into their new roles by working closely with the rest of the executive team, according to an announcement. Drews and Holsinger will also work closely with Kris Foner and Kristin Poffenberger, who are stepping into executive vice president roles.
Davenport and Hoffman have been “exemplary leaders” who are credited with shaping the organization’s involvement in recycling innovation and policy, said Tim Brownell, chair of the board of directors, in a statement. “Their contributions have been instrumental in our organization's success,” he said.