How the Evolution of the Waste Management Industry Will Affect Employment Outlook

How the Evolution of the Waste Management Industry Will Affect Employment Outlook

There’s no doubt that today’s waste management industry has changed dramatically in the last couple of decades. Waste management has been historically handled via landfills or by burning it. However, there’s an emerging new model of waste management. Chicago and other cities are more focused on reducing waste production in the first place, as well as diverting it toward recycling solutions instead of disposal.

While these changes in the industry are extremely positive, they are also inevitably having an impact on the job market. The following are the four primary trends involved:

1. New Skills Required to Meet the Green Economy

There is now a rising demand for workers with specialized skills and competencies in eco-friendly waste management methods. A range of environment-related considerations are now required in the average waste management worker’s job. However, these skills are also increasingly required in areas not traditionally associated with waste management.

As much as 10 percent of vacancies in the environmental protection field have requirements for waste management competencies. Duties may include monitoring waste disposal, characterizing waste types as well as creating waste reduction programs. These skills are also required in areas such as urban design, sustainable planning and alternative transportation.

2. Cradle-to-Cradle: Moving from Disposal to Diversion

The “cradle-to-cradle” concept describes efforts that divert waste from disposal so that landfill space and natural resources can be preserved. Creating less waste in the first place is now a priority for many businesses and industries. Companies are designing products and packaging with this in mind, substituting materials, reconsidering existing designs and recycling more. Progressive waste disposal technologies like anaerobic digestion are also being utilized. Waste management workers who are qualified in these areas will be increasingly in demand.

3. Current Staff Reaching Retirement Age

Many existing waste management managers and employees are also reaching retirement age. Nearly 40 percent of waste management workers are 50 years or older and have 10 or more years in the field. With such experienced workers exiting, the void created will require trained, skilled and highly educated workers for waste management Chicago companies, especially in the areas of management and in supervisory roles.

4. General Industry Growth

The best news for the waste management sector is robust growth. Between 2004 and 2006, the industry saw growth of 17 percent. As of 2010, there were over 70,000 waste management professionals working in the industry. Continued growth is also expected. Labor market studies show demand for solid waste management workers at 6 percent compound growth rate annually going forward.

This translates into thousands of new jobs each year for the foreseeable future. Workers with the right training and skills can expect excellent prospects for employment in the waste management industry going forward.

These trends in waste management and around the country are fueling changes in the industry toward more eco-friendly solutions. They’re also expected to contribute to a positive employment outlook in the field going forward.

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