Waste managers serve the communities in which they work by keeping the environment safe and the population as healthy as possible. They do so by eliminating, storing, and relocating waste for a particular jurisdiction. While always a public-facing function, waste management services can be conducted by a public entity or managed through a contract with private-sector companies specializing in waste management and recycling operations.
Waste managers direct waste removal operations, through the city, county, or a specific company, so that all citizens have access to waste removal services. Once removed, the waste must be transported to appropriate locations such as landfills, recycling centers, or special hazardous waste locations, all of which must meet federal and state regulations. Investigating illegal dumping claims is another aspect of waste removal regulation.
In many areas, waste management organizations are also responsible for recycling programs. Managing these programs includes tasks such as strategically placing recycling centers and collection locations where citizens are most likely to use them while still maintaining zoning restrictions. At other times, the recycling program hosts special events to help collect items that require special attention for disposal or recycling, such as electronics, medications, batteries, paint, and flammable liquids.
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Waste manager responsibilities may vary depending on the city’s waste removal system. Some cities provide waste removal services on certain days of the week for businesses and residents. Other cities allow private companies to compete for business in a given area. Therefore, waste management might include overseeing city/county workers and disposal transportation, or it might involve working in conjunction with various waste management companies to ensure compliance with local waste disposal regulations. Additionally, waste managers work to protect the environment by overseeing various tests to ensure soil and water sources have not been contaminated, hazardous materials are handled properly, and recycling centers are operating efficiently.
Salary and Benefits
A waste manager’s salary can vary widely and depends on a person’s educational background and prior experience. For more information on salary and benefits for waste managers, visit the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics website.
Some waste managers have a bachelor’s degree in engineering or a closely related field, while others gain specialized expertise by pursuing an advanced degree in environmental science or a Master of Public Administration (MPA). Science education enables waste management officials to better understand how chemicals break down elements and which chemicals have the potential to threaten human health through the soil or water supply system. However, an understanding of the public sector, as well as how to navigate state and federal laws and regulations, is best obtained by earning an MPA. This advanced degree is a distinguishing quality for those seeking to work in waste management for larger municipalities.
Challenges and Opportunities
Waste managers find themselves faced with more and more challenges in their field. Technology and convenience lead consumers to consistently seek upgrades, bringing a steady stream of disposable items into landfills. It is the job of waste managers to continue to find appropriate space to dispose of waste while simultaneously educating the public about the importance of recycling and conservation. At the same time, waste managers have the opportunity to keep large populations of people safe from disease, pests, and hazardous materials. It is the ability to protect the health of citizens and the environment that makes this career most satisfying.
Numerous factors affect the waste management industry. Population growth leads to more waste, which demands more waste management services, such as disposal and recycling options. In addition, a renewed interest in green living has created a greater demand for recycling programs and practices that reduce the amount of waste in landfills. Rapidly changing personal technology contributes to a growing need for new recycling initiatives. Another important factor is the disposal of hazardous waste.