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Environment, Agriculture & Conservation careers

Waste Management

Waste not, want not…

You might not think that you are a wasteful person. You might be the kind of person that always eats an entire apple including the core, or has an absolute mountain of a compost heap in your back garden.

However, the fact remains: we all produce waste. It’s unavoidable! Whether it’s through recycling or throwing away old TVs, the amount of waste in the UK just keeps piling up and up. Obviously, something needs to be done about it. This is where waste management professionals step into the limelight and get their hands dirty (quite literally sometimes!).

Why is it important? What does it involve?

The UK produces literal tons of waste every single day. Does anybody know where it goes? Actually, yes, someone does! It’s the role of the guys in waste management to dispose of all this waste safely and efficiently. 

Waste management is a challenging, but ultimately fulfilling area of work to get into. Essentially, it’s all about planning and managing schemes that help reduce the environmental impact of waste that is produced by human activity or industrial operations.

You might be getting involved with the promotion of recycling in a specific area or arranging how often the council’s bin men actually go out and collect people’s wheelie bins and black bags.

To become a refuse collector who actively collects rubbish and transports it to waste disposal sites and recycling plants, you won’t need to gain any specific academic qualifications.

However, if you want to be the person making all the big waste management decisions and coordinating all the waste disposal activity, you might need to get a degree in a relevant subject, such as waste management, environmental management or biology. This is not necessarily essential though, as entry is also possible if you manage to bag yourself an HND (higher national diploma) in waste management.

Sure, we understand that ‘waste’ might not be on most people’s top ten list of things that they are passionate about. However, to break into this industry, it’d be useful if you are interested in environmental issues. That’s kind of a biggie!

Break it down for me a little bit!

The most common role in waste management is that of the waste management officer. These are the guys with the huge responsibility of handling the nation’s waste on a day-to-day basis and disposing of it in the most suitable way.

A major chunk of a waste management officer’s job involves providing advice and guidance to companies and industrial waste sites about issues concerning their waste disposal. A lot of businesses don’t know how to store waste, let alone know where to dispose of it.

You’ll be using your nous, your networking and your managerial skills to start new recycling schemes and waste disposal programmes. You’ll therefore need to possess a great knowledge of the industry and the environment and have the ability to come up with new innovative ideas.

You’ll also be the big cheese that puts together schedules for refuse collection and makes sure that all the waste is transported in an efficient and environmentally-friendly manner. Your remit might also include getting involved with high-level environmental crime investigations. You know the kind of thing; like when Smithers and Mr Burns get busted for dumping nuclear waste in the playground in The Simpsons. Well, maybe not quite like that, but this part of the job can definitely be quite exciting.

If you don’t want to get involved with the management side of waste disposal, you could always become a refuse collector. You better get used to early mornings and working in all weather conditions though if you want to do this.

Basically, you’ll be spending your time on a ‘rig’ (a.k.a. the refuse collection lorry), driving round, collecting bin bags and then taking them to recycling plants and landfill sites. If you’re looking to become the person that drives the rig, you’re likely to need an HGV driving licence.

As you can imagine, careers in waste management are pretty full-on. After all, waste never stops; it only ever increases and increases. If you’re determined and organised though, your career can make a huge difference to the environment. To find employment in this area, your best bet is to consider working for local councils or private waste management organisations.