Study Waste Management

Traditionally viewed as a public service, focused on efficient collection and disposal, waste management may not have been considered as a dynamic career opportunity in the past. However, times are changing. This has led to an increased focus on regulation, policy, research and development, which in turn has generated a demand for suitably qualified professionals.

Study Waste Management

Waste Management crosses many disciplines; it is of importance to civil engineers, town planners, industrial ecologists, environmentalists, political scientists, social scientists, economists and technologists. It is impossible to consider societal development without giving consideration to waste management, whether this is in terms of providing a basic service where waste is removed with minimal external impact, or adopting more sustainable practices and incorporating the view that waste represents a valuable resource.

There are a number of significant pressures that are currently driving the changes in waste management, however the most significant driver legislation and policy. The year 2000 saw the launch of the national waste strategies, which included a number of targets specifically aimed at increasing recycling and diversifying waste management away from the more traditional disposal routes. The first target of 25% recycling of municipal solid waste met by 2005, with a recycling rate of only 12%, this certainly posed a challenge to the local and national government, waste regulators, waste generators, and waste management industry.

The national waste strategies have been produced principally to implement European waste directives and currently one of the most significant pieces of legislation to come from Europe, in terms of the impact on current practices in the UK, is the Landfill Directive. The overall aims of the Directive are to reduce the negative impacts of landfill sites on the environment, specifically reducing emissions of methane (a significant greenhouse gas) by limiting the disposal of biodegradable municipal solid waste in landfills.

In addition to the diversion of biodegradable municipal waste the Landfill Directive contains a number of significant requirements. To meet your requirement for all waste to be pre-treated prior to landfill disposal there will be an increased need for source separation of municipal wastes and the development of alternative technological solutions to process the different waste streams. These was a need for the development of new infrastructure and innovative technological solutions for waste tyres, which faced a ban from landfill disposal in 2003 for whole tyres and 2006 for shredded tyres. Furthermore, a ban was imposed on liquid wastes, infectious clinical wastes and certain types of hazardous wastes, from going to landfill. This placed significant pressure on existing waste treatment capacity licensed to manage these waste streams.

There are several Government policy initiatives and EC Directives that have also impacted waste management strategies. These include the revised Special Waste Regulations, controls on the use of PVC (polyvinyl chloride), increased emission standards for incineration, control over End of Life Vehicles, targets for battery recycling and the imminent adoption of the Waste from Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive.

Their implementation required dynamic changes in the way that waste is managed. The resources, commitment and expertise needed to develop the infrastructure to support the different strategies, required involvement from local and national policymakers, regulators, waste producers and professionals within the waste producers and professionals within the waste management industry.

Employment opportunities in waste management have traditionally been within the policy sector at local and national government, regulation within the Environment Agency, and the industrial sector within waste disposal companies. However, with the development of sustainable waste management strategies, focusing on better uses for resources by collecting, sorting, recycling, remanufacturing and refurbishing materials, new opportunities have arisen for employment in the recycling and consulting sector. Research undertaken on behalf of the Waste Management Industry Training and Advisory (WAMITAB) identified a total of 65,000 jobs in the waste management sector, and recycling is one of the main sub sectors continuing to show growth.

Implementation of compliance schemes through Producer Responsibility Initiatives (for example to meet the requirements of the Packaging Directive), has created additional ‘white collar’ jobs in waste management. The implementation of the End of Life Vehicles Directive, and the Waste from Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive, have created more employment opportunities in this area.

In addition, although it is difficult to establish the number of people involved, there has been an increase in the number of waste management research projects. These have varied from the development of innovative and emerging technological solutions, to assessing effectiveness of policy and regulation.

To reflect this upsurge in employment opportunities and the growing importance of waste issues across many disciplines, and increasing number of undergraduate courses now include a focus on waste management. Whilst it is rare for specific undergraduate awards to be offered in waste management, it is more common for a module of a number of modules to be incorporated as a component of a more generic environmental, science or engineering course. However the opportunity focus studies at postgraduate level and undertake specialised waste management Masters degrees, is increasing. The demand from waste sector for personnel with formal waste management qualifications has never been greater, and the industry as a whole is looking towards the academic sector to provide qualified staff.

The Institute of Wastes Management (IWM), which is the leading professional body for waste management in the UK, offers support for students undertaking formal qualifications in waste management through its membership route. Students registered full time for degrees or postgraduate qualifications that cover waste issues can apply for student membership (free of charge for the first year). This offers all the usual benefits of professional membership, including a monthly journal, weekly news on-line services, reduced fees for conferences, workshops and training, and extensive networking opportunities.

With formal qualifications in waste management that career opportunities are endless. These range from positions in research and development, local government, private sector companies, regulation, charities and NGO’s. Whether your interest lies in science and engineering, media and promotion, production and design, education and information, or environmental lobbying, there are opportunities available in the waste sector.

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