Waste Management Officer/Recycling Officer

The Job and What's Involved

Waste management officers/recycling officers organise and manage the collection and transportation of household and industrial/commercial waste. They also deal with recycling, waste treatment and disposal, street cleaning, litter and fly tipping.

The role usually involves:

  • Managing waste management schemes, such as waste disposal sites and recycling facilities.
  • Overseeing the transportation of waste to sites without contaminating air, land or water sources.
  • Investigating new waste management facilities and recycling schemes.
  • Monitoring waste collection services and their efficiency.
  • Analysing waste volumes, and preparing statistics and reports.
  • Managing teams of refuse/recycling operatives.
  • Advising the local community on waste reduction and recycling issues.
  • Dealing with enquiries and complaints from the general public.
  • Keeping up to date with best practice and relevant legislation.

Waste management officers/recycling officers have to meet targets for waste reduction and recycling in their area. They set and manage budgets for the work. They either research and prepare their organisation's policies on recycling and waste reduction, or are involved in policy preparation with other members of their team.

They are usually responsible for co-ordinating a team of people. This can include contractors, technicians and mechanics, and the vehicles and equipment they use. The work also involves contact with a variety of people, including council or committee members, other work departments, local media and members of the general public.

Some waste management officers/recycling officers, especially those employed by local authorities, are involved in giving presentations to schools, colleges and local groups. They may also promote recycling and waste reduction schemes through the local media, by talking on local radio stations or through press releases to newspapers and journals.

Officers usually work standard office hours, Monday to Friday. They sometimes have to work in the evenings and at weekends, e.g. to attend council or committee meetings.

The job is office based, but there are also many out-of-office activities, such as overseeing waste disposal facilities and visiting local groups and businesses.

As the work can involve considerable travel, a driving licence is usually required. Occasional overnight stays may be required.

Protective clothing may be worn during site visits, such as hard hats, gloves and boots.

Starting salaries may be around £20,000 a year. More experienced waste management officers/recycling officers may earn between £25,000 and £35,000. Operations managers or chartered waste managers may earn up to around £40,000.

A car allowance may be provided.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

Waste management officers/recycling officers work mainly for local authorities throughout the UK. Some work for private waste businesses, industrial organisations, environmental agencies, consultancies and non-profit-making conservation projects.

Job opportunities are increasing in some areas because of changes to the law and higher targets for waste management, disposal and recycling. There may be strong competition for some jobs.

Vacancies may be advertised in local and national newspapers. The Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM) website includes a job search. Other relevant websites include the specialist job site www.letsrecycle.com Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee www.larac.org.uk and Local Government Opportunities www.lgjobs.com.

Education and Training

Employers usually expect applicants to have at least five GCSE's (A*-C) and at least one A level, or the equivalent. However, most entrants are graduates.

Some work experience or voluntary work in waste management, recycling, or with an environmental organisation is valuable experience. The British Trust for Conservation Volunteers (BTCV) and The National Trust offer voluntary opportunities and working holidays.

The Diploma in environmental and land-based studies may be relevant for this area of work.

Specific qualifications that are most relevant include a degree, foundation degree or a Higher National Certificate (HNC) in waste management.

Other useful degree subjects include environmental management, biology, environmental science and other science subjects.

Entry for a degree course is usually with at least five GCSE's (A*-C), including English, maths and a science, and two to three A levels, normally including a science subject, or the equivalent. Candidates may prepare for application to a degree course by taking an Access course.

For HNC courses and foundation degrees, entry is usually with at least four GCSE's (A*-C) and one to two A levels.

Degree courses usually last three years full time, foundation degree and HNC courses two years. These can sometimes include work placements. Candidates should check with individual institutions for full details.

Postgraduate courses focusing on waste management are available across the UK, including a number of Masters degrees in different aspects of waste management.

A list of CIWM-accredited courses can be found on the CIWM website.

Some people move into this work from other local government departments or through experience of working in the construction, haulage or quarrying industries.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Training is often on the job under the supervision of operations managers or experienced colleagues. This may be combined with attendance at training courses offered by the CIWM.

The Waste Management Industry Training and Advisory Board (WAMITAB) offers relevant qualifications through its approved centres. NVQ's at Level 3 and Level 4 are available in the management of recycling operations and are aimed at supervisors and managers. The CIWM also offer a Certificate in Supervisory Management for people engaged in, or hoping to gain a supervisory position in waste management.

The CIWM runs a Structured Learning and Development Scheme (SLD), which enables new graduates to acquire the practical skills to develop a career in the wastes management industry. It is a flexible programme of professional training.

Members of the CIWM are expected to demonstrate a minimum of 30 hours of continuing professional development (CPD) a year in a range of related activities.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A waste management officer/recycling officer should:

  • Have a good knowledge of waste management and recycling issues and the relevant legislation concerning them.
  • Be analytical, able to solve problems and make decisions.
  • Have good management and leadership skills.
  • Be efficient at working with budgets and statistics.
  • Have good personal communication and report writing skills.
  • Be patient and well organised, and pay good attention to detail.
  • Have confidence in making presentations to groups and giving radio interviews.
  • Be able to work on their own initiative and as part of a team.
  • Have administrative and IT skills.

Your Long Term Prospects

The CIWM has a membership scheme for professionals working in recycling and wastes management. Members can work towards becoming a full member with chartered waste manager status.

There may be promotion opportunities to senior officer, team leader, area officer or operations manager, especially in larger local authorities and organisations where the waste management and recycling role is expanding.

People who have continued to develop their skills and knowledge may have promotion opportunities to other areas such as general or environmental management. Others move into working with regulatory authorities such as the Environment Agency, or become self-employed working as a consultant.

Get Further Information

British Trust for Conservation Volunteers (BTCV),
Sedum House, Mallard Way,
Potteric Carr, Doncaster DN4 8DB
Tel: 01302 388883
Website: www.btcv.org.uk

Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM),
9 Saxon Court, St Peter's Gardens,
Marefair, Northampton NN1 1SX
Tel: 01604 620426
Website: www.ciwm.co.uk

Energy & Utility Skills,
Friars Gate, 1011, Stratford Road,
Shirley, Solihull B90 4BN
Tel: 0845 077 9922
Website: www.euskills.co.uk

Environment Agency,
National Customer Contact Centre,
PO Box 544, Rotherham S60 1BY
Tel: 0870 850 6506
Website: www.environment-agency.gov.uk

The National Trust,
PO Box 39, Warrington WA5 7WD
Tel: 0844 800 1895
Website: www.nationaltrust.org.uk

Waste Management Industry
Training and Advisory Board (WAMITAB),
Peterbridge House, 3 The Lakes,
Northampton NN4 7HE
Tel: 01604 231950
Website: www.wamitab.org.uk

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