Sure, you may think that this profession is a ‘waste’ of time (apologies for that awful pun!), but waste management is actually incredibly important – both for environmental sustainability and keeping our nation’s communities clean and tidy!
Waste management officers are responsible for overseeing and coordinating waste disposal, refuse collection and recycling activities in an efficient and environmentally-friendly manner.
The majority of waste management officers are employed by waste management agencies under the administration of local government authorities, while a significant percentage are also employed in the commercial sector, mainly by infrastructure consultancies and private waste management companies.
Some people also work for government departments and executive agencies, such as the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Environment Agency.
Waste management is a target-driven activity, with disposal targets set at both national and EU levels. Don’t worry though, you’re not going to be working as a refuse collector (a.k.a. a binman) if you enter this profession. In fact, you will primarily have strategic and supervisory responsibilities.
Typically, your duties will include: preparing, planning and implementing safe waste disposal strategies, managing budgets and ensuring that all waste disposal activities in your jurisdiction comply with environmental laws and regulations. After all, let’s just consider what happened in The Simpsons Movie – you wouldn’t want the town or city under your jurisdiction to be doomed to live underneath a giant glass dome!
As a waste management officer, you’ll also be collaborating with environmental enforcement officers to investigate cases of illegal dumping and other eco-crimes relating to waste disposal.
You may also be managing refuse collectors directly, monitoring the efficacy of various schemes and liaising with members of the community in order to understand their needs, so that you can make vital improvements and adjustments to local waste management processes and procedures.
Salary & benefits
Annual salaries for waste management officers in the early stages of their career tend to range between £22,000 and £25,000, while salaries for professionals with more than ten years’ experience are usually around £30,000 to £50,000 per annum.
Senior personnel with chartered status or senior managerial responsibilities can earn in excess of £50,000 a year.
Working nine-to-five is the way you’ll make your living. However, waste management officers need to be prepared for some amount of weekend work from time to time, especially when working to meet project deadlines or undertaking emergency investigations.
You will be regularly travelling around as part of the job, not only for inspections, but also for meeting stakeholders and relevant organisations, such as community associations.
There is no fixed entry route for jobs in waste management, although a degree in waste management or a related subject, such as environmental science, civil engineering, biochemistry, ecology or geology, is a good starting point.
The majority of entry-level waste management officers are graduates, although a degree is by no means essential for entry into this profession.
If you want to stand out from the crowd and get an edge over other candidates, you could even do a postgraduate degree in waste management. Gaining prior work experience through vacation schemes or volunteering programmes will also be vital for improving your chances of finding employment.
Training & progression
While most employers provide hands-on training and development schemes, the completion of other professional training courses and obtaining membership with professional bodies, such as the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM), are recommended. This will serve you nicely in two ways: not only will it help you to develop specific expertise in the area, but it will also build up your network by allowing you to liaise with other professionals.
The Waste Management Industry Training and Advisory Board (WAMITAB) also offers courses which lead to relevant vocational qualifications.
As your career progresses, you might move into a team leader position or eventually become the director of waste management in your region. Many waste management officers who work in the public sector also choose to move out of their local area and find employment with private waste management companies. This public-to-private sector transition may enable you to boost your earning potential and progress up the career ladder more quickly.