IWWG Experts forum on
Education in Waste Management
Contact: Ian Williams
Waste (resource) management has historically suffered from an image of dirty work on dirty sites carried out by poorly qualified people. It has traditionally been viewed as a public service, focused on efficient collection and disposal, and as such, it may not have been considered as a dynamic career opportunity in the past. Whilst this image may have been appropriate in an age when disposal was the main focus; dilute and disperse was the accepted “pollution control” technique and waste sites were largely unlicensed and uncontrolled, this is no longer the case and the industry can now lay claim to being one of the most dynamic and fast-changing business sectors.
In Europe, the last decade has seen a substantial number of environmental and waste (resource) directives, with an emphasis on increased producer responsibility, waste minimization, recycling, high technology incineration and landfill management. The same pattern is repeating throughout the globe. As a consequence, there is a greater requirement on the waste sector to operate to higher standards of professionalism and to incorporate best practice in all activities, including the development of national and local strategies, the use of targets and performance indicators, benchmarking and league tables. This is leading to substantial changes in the industry and the workforce; for example, there are fewer (but larger) waste management companies as a result of takeovers and mergers driven by the changed business environment. Many of the “old guard” have retired and a younger, more highly qualified and diverse workforce has emerged; anecdotal evidence suggests that there are more women and proportionally less engineers in the workforce.
These changes reflect society’s desire to manage our resources better and to protect the environment, locally as well as globally. Resource management is now a multi-disciplinary subject, incorporating: civil engineering, environmental science and engineering, politics, economics, urban and rural planning, law, industrial ecology, social science, advertising, marketing, design, technology, psychology, behavioural economics and even the creative arts. Resource management has never had a higher public profile, to the extent that it is probably no longer possible to consider societal development without giving consideration to resource management, either 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.
The drive to divert biodegradable municipal and commercial/industrial wastes from landfill, to reduce the negative impacts of waste treatment and disposal and to use resources more efficiently and sustainably will continue to require dynamic changes within the waste sector. For example, implementation of compliance schemes through Producer Responsibility initiatives has created additional ‘white collar’ jobs in waste management. The resources, commitment and expertise needed to develop the infrastructure to support the different strategies will require involvement from a range of stakeholders, including local and national policymakers, regulators, waste producers, charities and voluntary groups and education and training professionals. This will inevitably result in further changes to the composition of the workforce and different training and education requirements.
This IWWG Task Group on Education in Waste Management will keep a close eye paper on requirements for employment skills, education and training for professionals in the waste (resource) sector worldwide. The Group is new and a setting-up phase will be necessary during 2014.
Initial Aims of the Task Group
The initial aims of the Task Group are to:
- Establish core membership, preferably with adequate representation from the various regions of the world.
- Develop and write an editorial for Waste Management to highlight the importance of education to waste management and flagging up some areas where i) core skills are essential ii) skills gaps may be emerging and iii) future developments are needed.
- Establish as complete a list as possible of undergraduate and postgraduate waste and resource management courses from around the world; and
- From this list, start to understand what is being taught where and why.
If you are interested in joining the task group, please contact the TG leader.
Contact and TG Leader
Professor of Applied Environmental Science,
Head of Centre for Environmental Sciences,
Faculty of Engineering and the Environment,
University of Southampton,
Hamshire, SO17 1BJ United Kingdom
Tel: 02380 598755 E-Mail: idw(at)soton.ac.uk