Back in the 1990s, Captain Planet taught a generation of youngsters to “reduce, reuse and recycle.” Sure, the green-haired, spandex-wearing environmentalist’s eco-crime-fighting days might now be over, but his environmental legacy lives on. In fact, if Captain Planet was a real person in the 21st century, he certainly wouldn’t spend his days dealing with the evil machinations of the ‘Eco-Villains’ – he’d probably be working as a recycling officer.
Recycling officers are employed by local councils and private consultancies to design and implement recycling schemes, monitor the effectiveness of the recycling initiatives in their jurisdiction and increase public awareness of the need for recycling.
If you enter this profession, you’ll be promoting the importance of recycling in the community, implementing recycling initiatives and collating data about current efforts and projects. Based on this information, you’ll be writing reports and making presentations to keep higher authorities up to speed on the outcomes of ongoing schemes.
Furthermore, you may be responsible for handling the budget for recycling schemes in your area and making sure that all projects and facilities comply with regulatory and statutory requirements.
Salary & benefits
Annual salaries for recycling officers in the first ten years of employment range between £19,000 and £30,000 per annum, while salaries for senior personnel with more experience are around £30,000 to £45,000.
If you take on a role with managerial and strategic responsibility, you may even earn up to £62,000 per annum.
Working nine-to-five is the way you’ll make your living. However, you might have to work a few extra hours from time to time, especially when it comes to meeting project implementation deadlines.
The job is a 50-50 mix of field- and office-based work and travel is frequent. Given the nature of the work, flexible hours are encouraged, as long as all objectives and requirements are met.
A relevant degree or diploma in a subject such as environmental science, environmental management, ecology, waste management, civil engineering, biology, physics or maths is the basic entry requirement for careers in this area.
Some employers may even prefer candidates that have attained a postgraduate qualification in waste management.
If you choose to take the non-university route, then you can still build a career in this area. However, you’re likely to find yourself starting further down the career ladder at a junior technician level.
Given the growing popularity of this field and the increasing competition for available jobs, a decent amount of work experience through paid internships or volunteering activities will provide you with an additional advantage over other candidates.
Training & progression
Training and development is mainly facilitated through gaining hands-on experience. However, some employers may also sponsor you to complete bespoke training courses, which are offered by organisations like the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM).
As you gain more experience and specialist expertise, it’s possible to move into roles with a wider range of responsibility, such as environmental manager or waste management officer.
Alternatively, you may choose to become an environmental officer, where you’ll be responsible for monitoring and enforcing recycling policy.