Recruitment trends in the global waste sector

Written by: Juliette Brooks | Published:
Juliette Brooks

From a recruitment point of view, the waste industry seems to be a booming one, according to Juliette Brooks, head of environmental and energy at recruitment agency Morson.

With pressure on an international level to move away from landfill as the primary waste disposal method, over the last few years we’ve seen a big increase in recruitment needs for recycling facilities and other methods of waste management. This has resulted in a huge growth in the number of people coming to speak to us with their recruitment requirements. The market definitely doesn’t seem to be saturated.

According to a report from 2011, between the years of 1997 and 2010, England’s household waste recycling rate went from 7% to 27%. It will certainly be interesting to see what the stat is at the end of this year, a full two decades on from the original. A client we recruit for in Essex has a plastics recovery facility which processes some 65,000 tonnes of plastics, paper, cans and bottles every year, serving just a small area. Filling these plants with skilled workers is one of our many challenges.

One of the things we’ve seen is that there are a lot of broad recruitment agencies that don’t cater for this niche sector, particularly ones doing the full turkey waste management through to logistics with design support. This gives us a broad view on the industry as a whole, and with this form of waste being a relatively new sector for us, we face challenges all the time.

For example, it can often by difficult to get in touch with hiring managers and successfully implement a recruitment timetable. Sometimes, in the bigger companies, you can send a great CV across but find that it never reaches the hiring manager at all.

It can also take time to find some of the more senior white collar roles although we’ve found the industry to be a relatively small and tight-knit one which means a suitable candidate is usually known to others, with plenty of cross-skilling potential.

As the world becomes more environmentally conscious we’re seeing new and innovative ways of utilising the billions of tonnes of waste we produce every year. One of these relatively new endeavours is the Energy from Waste (EfW) program, an innovate prospect and something that we deal with from both a recruitment perspective and a design consultancy one with Morson Projects.

This duality allows us a unique perspective with the designers’ insights complementing the recruitment side. When Projects first got involved in the waste sector, it was predominantly for piping design for a project in Derby. The Projects team see the industry as potentially having some limitations that would need to be overcome in order to achieve consistent growth, and getting this unique insight enables us to better gauge recruitment trends accordingly.

EfW depends on the quality and indeed quantity of waste that is produced and utilised. This can cause issues with the overall sustainability of the sector and hence the need to recruit. An example of this could be seen a little further afield. In continental Europe, there are EfW plants that are currently mothballed or closed altogether due to there simply being a shortage of waste, with companies having to actually buy it to keep producing a suitable return. This creates issues for recruiters because contractors find themselves out of work.

Whatever happens, there needs to be continuing investment into waste management over the coming years. The key to sustainable recruitment growth is definitely down to diversity, such as more utilisation of biomass energy production – with a keen eye kept on the efficiency of the process and the return it provides.

Ultimately, the waste issue is something which has to be dealt with one way or another. There might be teething issues but demonstrably areas like recycling are growing - and from blue collar to white collar, roles will need to be filled. It’s exciting to be launching properly into the world of waste management recruitment because of this potential.

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