CEO of WasteAid UK Mike Webster: 'Everyone should pack their jobs in and start up a charity'

Written by: Jo Gallacher | Published:
CEO of WasteAid UK Mike Webster

Ahead of this year’s fundraising walk, Mike Webster, CEO of WasteAid UK, discusses the charity’s progress and the work that still needs to be done.

What got you involved in the waste industry?

Like many, I didn’t plan to get involved. However, with an environmental degree I needed a job and the waste sector provided one. Once I was in it, I found it endlessly fascinating. I always had one foot in community development and kept coming back to waste.

It was clear that there was an increasing problem with waste globally yet it was entirely absent from global development discourse. Meanwhile, the only international waste work was very large scale, top down and engineering led. And clearly kept failing, as evidenced by the large number of white elephant projects scattered around the world.

What progress has been made since WasteAid UK’s establishment in 2015?

We’ve gone from strength to strength as an organisation and the recent Department for International Development announcement suggests another major step forward for us.

How do you translate the message that waste is a resource?

We underline that waste has a value, it can provide opportunities to the poorest in society and, left unmanaged, provides a significant hindrance to human development.

What WasteAid project are you most proud of and why?

We’re proud of all of them, although at 17,000 downloads and a reach of 170 countries, our toolkit is having an impact beyond our wildest dreams.

What steps are being taken to lobby the donor community to increase spending on waste management?

We are working directly with Tearfund, WWF and others to push this up the agenda.

What part of the world needs the most attention?

Essentially anywhere without comprehensive waste collection – and that includes pretty much all countries with a GDP of less than about $1,000 a year. It’s a huge problem but a massive blindspot for many working in global development.

Should government focus its efforts on global waste management, rather than UK measures, to reduce pollution?

I think the UK government as a major donor should increase its focus on global solid waste management as a lack of it hinders development.

What is the one change you want to see in the world?

I want the person in the street to understand quite how vital the work that the waste sector does. Just imagine your town or city without it.

Can you tell us more about the Walk for WasteAid?

The walk is an opportunity for those in the waste sector and beyond to show their support and have a fun day out in London.

WasteAid UK’s greatest challenge is…?

Showing the world that #wastematters and getting the waste sector to understand that engaging the public, using appropriate technologies and thinking about new ways of funding waste are the most important areas.

What’s the best part of being involved with WasteAid UK?

It’s the best job in the sector (and I should know, I’ve had a few) – knowing that you are making a difference and growing an organisation that will help millions one day.

How can the industry support WasteAid UK?

Put their money where their mouths are and become corporate supporters! We are the best story in the sector – we show the world that the waste and resources sector is vital, and the places that struggle without it are grim, unhealthy places.

They should be part of the change – if they don’t get on board soon, their competitors will beat them to it.

Life is…?

Good. Everyone should pack their jobs in and start up a charity. It can be a wild ride at times but hey, life is short and you might as well do something useful with it.


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