Why should millennials consider an internship in the waste industry?

Written by: Ellie Welsh | Published:
Internships are a great way of getting an in-depth understanding of ethical waste management

Millennials and post-millennials, and that includes myself, have been dubbed ‘Generation Green’.

In May 2019, over a million schoolchildren from 110 countries joined a school strike for climate change, boycotting classes to encourage their countries to adhere to the 2015 Paris climate agreement.

It’s clear that millennials care passionately and are deeply motivated to enact change that would benefit the environment. And for those considering their next steps after full-time education, I’d have to recommend the waste management sector, which offers a career that can make meaningful difference to the future of the planet.

Currently waiting to start my Master’s degree in consumer analytics and marketing strategy at Leeds University, I’m keen to focus on ethical and environmental concerns, and how marketing strategy can boost awareness of the issues facing our planet. I am also extremely interested in incorporating the wider sustainability issues companies find themselves having to contend with – such as managing their waste resources.

As such, the internship on offer at Cawleys was an ideal way to get an in-depth understanding of ethical waste management and utilise my skills and time to the full. It is the ideal starting point for my career and offers the opportunity to discover how businesses can make a difference and what the industry is doing on a wider scale.

Developing skills for the future

There has been a number of skills I’ve honed during my time at Cawleys; for example, working independently to manage the company’s social media channels, an ability to break down complex recycling processes so that they can be understood by consumers, teamwork as part of the on-site awareness days and, of course, general office administrative tasks.

However, one of the most enjoyable parts of my internship has been supporting the Small Action, Big Impact initiative, which aims to encourage consumers to make small actions that once put together make a big, positive impact. Over the course of the year, 1,300 people have pledged to avoid single-use plastics, to use reusable coffee cups, recycle electrical equipment, and ensure food waste enters the compost bin.

As part of the campaign, I’ll often join the Cawleys team at awareness days held at their various clients’ premises. Based on-site, we directly engage with clients’ employees to educate and inform them about taking a mindful approach to recycling. In many instances we’ll spend time discussing the benefits of using the recycling facilities to their best advantage for both the benefit of their company and the environment. This could range from a discussion about what happens to a coffee cup once it enters the recycling bin to how an electric toothbrush is broken down and its resources recovered.

Not only have I sharpened my communication skills through this activity, but I also know that I have been effecting positive change – encouraging others to take up the ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ mantra. Now that’s a skill worth developing for the future.

The 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg said: “It is still not too late to act. I ask you to please wake up and make changes required possible.” In just the relatively short time since my internship started, I’ve taken part in five SABI awareness days, speaking on average to 30 people each day – that’s 150 individuals – about the changes I care passionately about and the actions we can each adopt to improve the wellbeing of the planet.There are not many internships in the country which could offer me such a direct way to make a difference.


Ellie’s top tips to others who are considering an internship in the waste sector

  • Get on a green committee at school, college or university – this will provide great background and experience when applying for internships
  • Ask for tours around facilities such as Cawleys’ materials recycling facility to build your industry knowledge and to give you a taster experience
  • Keep up to date with recycling processes
  • Know what you can and can’t recycle, especially in your local area
  • Take an active role in building awareness around waste issues – make a pledge at Small Action, Big Impact

Ellie Welsh is an intern at Cawleys Waste Management.

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