01 May by


As Waste Management climbs up the political and environmental agenda, the Waste industry is moving away from its traditional blue collar image into an industry that can offer a variety of professional career opportunities.  In this article, Allen & York Recruitment will take a look at the growth of the waste jobs market, with a particular focus on; the evolution of the industry, the types of waste jobs that are emerging and the variety of companies who are currently experiencing growth.

Waste as a Commodity

In recent years the industry has transformed itself. Ten years ago, over 75% of the UK’s waste went to landfill compared to less than 50% today. Waste management was chiefly focused on the logistics of collection and transport, while these are still important, the industry has developed a range of technologies to treat waste and extract value from it.  Waste has moved from being something we simply dispose of to a commercial commodity.  

UK & International governments have set targets to reduce waste to landfill, increase waste recovery and reuse household & business waste.  The landfill tax, originally introduced in 1996 at a standard rate of £7 per tonne has risen to £72 per tonne in 2013 , encouraging businesses to reuse/recycle their waste. The landfill tax is often heralded as a great success and has made a significant impact on the perception and handling of waste.  


Between 2000 and 2010 the amount of material being recycled in the UK more than doubled and now, for the first time more waste is being recycled than going to landfill in England.  
The waste and recycling sector currently generates over £12bn per year in the UK and employs over 100,000 people and is expected to grow by 3% per year. 

The potential growth is even higher, as currently £5bn worth of recycled material is sent abroad for processing, if this could be handled within the UK this would give a further boost to the industry; Owen Paterson, Environment Secretary comments; “Dealing with waste and recycling properly is good for business as well as the environment and has the potential to boost economic growth and create jobs.” (UK Government press release 22nd May 2013)


Fastest Growing Waste Companies

A recent study has been published by Grant Thornton UK LLP revealing a 60% increase in corporate financing deals within the waste and recycling sectors between the first and second half of 2012.  Chris Murphy, CIWM deputy chief executive, said: "These figures confirm what we have suspected for a long time; the waste sector is of growing importance and influence, and has managed to maintain growth and contribute to the national economy at a time when other sectors have struggled.”

In their report published in November 2012, in conjunction with Catalyst Corporate Finance, CIWM have indentified the Top 30 fastest growing UK waste companies .  Top of the list are Redeem Limited a mobile phone and electronics recycling company who have seen an 83% 2 year CAGR (compound annual growth rate).  They are closely followed by New Earth Solutions, a waste treatment and renewable energy specialist at 80% CAGR and in third place, Specialist Waste Recycling Ltd, a waste management consultancy at 70%. 

The list illustrates the scope of the Waste industry, ranging from recycling animal by-products (Leo Group) to wholesale paper recycling (Recycling UK Limited). It also reveals the potential within the industry, the combined annual revenue of these 30 companies alone, being £903.5milion.

When we asked about the range of job opportunities within the industry, Robert Asquith, Planning Director - New Earth Solutions commented; “We employ a wide range of specialists in areas such as environmental management and compliance, engineering, project management, financial control, commercial management, and planning.  As a growing company looking constantly at commercial opportunities, you would also find in our head office some of the disciplines normally associated with commercial advisory companies such as commercial modelling and project finance.  On the sites themselves there are specialist roles in environmental management as well as technical disciplines associated with keeping all the machines running.  Site managers cover a huge range of issues.  And every operative needs the tickets necessary for the mobile and fixed plant we use.”

One area that is currently missing out on this growth is UK Manufacturing. It is a widely held view that the export of waste overseas is inhibiting investment in domestic waste developments, in figures published by WRAP this month an estimated 684,000 tonnes of recovered plastic were exported to China, in the equivalent of approximately 100 containers leaving the UK every day. The British Plastics Federation (BPF) argue that current systems favour exporting plastic over UK reprocessing and recycling and comments, that now China itself has set targets to recycle 75% of plastic by 2017, they “have so much of their own waste to recycle they will hardly want ours”. In a BPF Report published this month, they call for incentives for manufacturers to make fuller use of recycled plastics.   Giving a much needed boost to the UK Manufacturing industry.

Between now and 2025 (according to UN figures) the world population will increase by 20% to reach 8 billion inhabitants; the more people, the more waste and it has been estimated (by the OECD) that a 1% increase in national income creates a 0.69% increase in municipal solid waste.  Consequently, it is almost guaranteed that the Waste industry will continue to grow and demands for professional technical specialists working within this sector are set to increase.


Waste Careers

The main growth areas for Waste Careers which we are experiencing currently at Allen & York Recruitment include; Energy from Waste, Recycling and Manufacturing and Waste Management.  Within these industries are a mixture of engineering, project and operational management, business development and marketing; as well as health, safety, quality and environmental job opportunities.

A key growth area currently is Energy from Waste and our specialist EfW consultants at Allen & York are seeing a sharp rise in job opportunities within this sector.  Recent announcements have come from leading waste companies; Viridor, Peel Environmental, Emerald Biogas and Tamar Energy with plans to build/open waste processing facilities in the coming months. 

These plants range from an incineration plant which will supply electricity and heat for an adjacent horticultural greenhouse which will grow tomatoes, to anaerobic digestion plants which turn food waste into electricity.


An £8million plant due to be opened in County Durham by Emerald Biogas, when running at full capacity can process 50,000 tonnes of food waste per year and generate 1.56MW of electricity, enough to power 2,000 homes and create 40 new jobs.

“A particular focus for us at present is our technical team in our New Earth Advanced Thermal Technology Group Ltd company.  This team has successfully delivered a First of a Kind pyrolysis and gasification plant in Avonmouth, Bristol and is now working on a pipeline of follow on projects in the UK and overseas.  The broader supply chain for this will, we envisage, create a specialist knowledge base in the UK to the advantage of UK manufacturing and balance of trade.  In a small way it will help the UK with the move it needs to make towards a more balanced economy after the disaster of the banking crisis.” Robert Asquith, Planning Director - New Earth Solutions.

The challenge now for the Waste industry is to attract new professional talent. In the past the industry has had a bit of an image problem with the associations of dirty, smelly waste.  Waste companies recognise this and know that to appeal to a more white collar market and, importantly, to attract more women into waste they will need to re-brand and reflect this new industry. 

The Waste industry is now best described as Resource Management; a growing market in which raw materials are produced, exported and manufactured.  This new Waste industry is at the forefront of clean energy and sustainability; it is championing new innovation and creativity and offers an exciting workplace for anyone looking to forge a career within the green economy.