Moving away from the image of a dirty and smelly industry

Written by: Charles Cocklin | Published:
Charles Cocklin, team leader waste for ALLEN & YORK Recruitment

As we journey towards reducing and reusing the rubbish mountain produced from an increasingly consumer driven population; resource management, waste recycling and energy from waste (EfW) have become major growth markets across the UK, and globally, explains Charles Cocklin, team leader waste for ALLEN & YORK Recruitment, who takes a look at career opportunities in the waste sector.

The waste industry is rebranding itself, moving away from the image of dirty, smelly refuse collection, to a value driven resource management and recycling service, which offers attractive career paths. The waste jobs market is full of opportunity for operational staff, engineers, sales and business development professionals, as well as environmental technicians.

At ALLEN & YORK we work with large and small waste companies to recruit mainly mid to senior level technical and strategic professionals, who work across all aspects of waste and resource management. Current hotspots within the industry include anaerobic digestion (AD), refuse derived fuel (RDF) and landfill mining and resource recovery.

The past 20 years has seen amazing advances in waste recycling from the development of AD plants which have grown out of the increased amount of household and industry food waste collection to the production of biogas from ‘black bin liner’ rubbish. Technological innovation has enabled more efficient and cheaper processing of waste to produce fertilizers, compost and green fuels, at competitive prices.

With this surge in development comes a more strategic and professional approach. Plants require 24-hour maintenance to ensure consistent energy delivery, skilled engineers and operational managers are in high demand and customer service and client liaison has become more of a focus as businesses compete to win and deliver waste management solutions.

Refuse derived fuel (RDF) is a strong developing market, which is helping to move the UK towards zero waste to landfill; from producing biogas from landfill rubbish to compressing shredded waste into sub-coal briquettes, this is a great example of a specialist sector which has specific technical recruitment requirements.

Many waste companies are now partnering with specialist recruiters to enable them to cast the net wider for experienced, skilled technicians, due in the main to the specialist nature of the jobs. Relocation is often an option, as there are limited numbers of RDF and AD plants around the country, and there are many new and exciting projects which are at the cutting edge of technical development.

Landfill mining and resource recovery is also an area in which we are seeing quite a bit of interest and development. Twenty years ago, over 80% of the UK's waste was being sent to landfill, now the UK is comfortably on target to meet the 2020 EU Landfill Directive target to reduce the bio-municipal waste (BMW) landfilled to 35% of that produced in 1995. In addition waste companies are also digging up old landfill sites to mine the valuable materials, such as metals and also to produce landfill gas using the latest developments in plasma technology. Again, these operations call for skilled engineering, environmental professionals and logistics managers.

Salaries are competitive in the market; operations manager £40K-£60K, logistics/fleet manager £50K-£60K, moving up to general/area manager £60K-£90K, all of which would usually come with a package. Also, on the BD and sales side, business/corporate development manager with OTE can command salaries between £40K-£120K.

With good growth in the industry, we would expect to see a steady flow of interesting, well-paid job opportunities across the waste jobs market.

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