Climate Change

CIWM report outlines key skills for waste sector

The Chartered Institute for Wastes Management (CIWM) has launched a report outlining key skills the waste and resources sector should focus on as it prepares for future waste policy reform and a green recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Skills for the Future seeks to identify the core skills and competencies those working in the sector need to be equipped with in order to adapt to the next decade of changing policy – for example, the introduction of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), Deposit Return Scheme (DRS), the UK Government’s net zero target of 2050 and the transition to a circular economy.

Dr Adam Read
Dr Adam Read
Launched by the incoming President, Dr Adam Read, the report provides a breakdown on key skill areas identified for the waste sector.

Commenting on his inauguration as President of CIWM, Dr Adam Read said: “It is with huge honour that I take on the role of 105th President of CIWM.

“As we approach a decade of significant change in the resource and waste sector, I look forward to working with colleagues and members alike, creating a newly skilled sector-based workforce that has the capacity to adapt to the wide range of forthcoming policy changes, whilst helping CIWM achieve its wider ambition to lead the transition to a world beyond waste.”

Key skill areas identified in the report include soft skills, design, technology, health and safety, and reuse and repair – with each section providing a subset of skills for each area, such as carbon literacy, digital literacy, material sciences and life-cycle analysis.

The report also provides information on how the sector could benefit from developing skills in each area.

For example, the skills of communication and behaviour change could be beneficial in terms of raising awareness of the circular economy and the impacts of carbon emissions, so as to influence consumer decisions and demonstrate collective responsibility.

The report states that due to the lack of quality data collected by the waste sector, data and information technology training will need to be given to support the transition towards plugging the skills gap.

Soft skills training will also be deployed, from project management and people management, to change management and business continuity.

The final form of training is within systems thinking, which considers the types of holistic approaches required for a more circular economy, often underpinned by an understanding of systems and lifecycles.

In terms of sectors the waste industry could collaborate with, the report highlights a number of opportunities: production and manufacturing; retail; materials and chemicals; design; and information technology.

The production and manufacturing industry is increasingly having to think about taking responsibility for the ‘end of life’ of its products, with the waste sector being able to provide ample knowledge and skills surrounding resource recovery, remanufacturing and supporting new systems.

Conversely, the retail sector boasts many ‘experts in logistics’, which the report states could inspire a higher-tech approach for the waste sector in capturing, harvesting and managing resources as they become increasingly valuable.

Collaboration with the materials and chemicals sectors will also be necessary for the waste sector’s understanding of which new materials are being used and what the material and chemical legacy of current materials is – so that it can better retain the value from those resources at the end of life.

The report also highlights the importance of collaboration with the design industry in order to play a role in helping designers understand the power they have over whether a product can be reused, repaired or recycled at the end of its life.

The final sectoral collaboration is with the information technology sector.

According to the report, the waste sector is ripe for technological innovation, from ways in which waste is collected, to how valuable resources are extracted, and to the enhancement of system circularity to maximise value and ease of recovery.

The report also outlines what the Government can do in order to effectively carry out its plan to spur a ‘green industrial revolution’, as well as outlining the knowledge and skills that the waste sector can transfer across in order to facilitate this change.

According to the report, the government should provide a transition plan for a green recovery that has skills at its heart, incorporating sectoral plans that are clear on priorities and timeframes.

It should also recognise that the waste industry is a ‘priority sector that can support a green recovery’ and enable widespread adaptation accordingly.

The report states that the Government should promote the resources and waste sector as an attractive option for future jobs and careers.

Additionally, it should ‘promote the collaboration and transference of skills across departments, governments and sectors, as well as amongst regulators, academia and training institutions’.

Commenting on the Skills for the Future report launch, CIWM President, Dr Adam Read, said: “The resource and waste sector will sit at the heart of a future circular economy and a post-pandemic green recovery, but to ensure this can happen, we need to up-skill our workforce and attract new talent whilst collaborating with other industries, academic institutions and leading professional bodies.

“This year’s CIWM Presidential Report not only identifies the key skills that will support the resource and waste sector through forthcoming policy-based changes, but also acts as a call to arms, outlining how forward-planning, collaboration and government support are critical if this vitally important transition can take place.”