Solid Waste & Recycling


The ECO Canada Study

Picture a possible future for the solid waste management sector.

Picture a possible future for the solid waste management sector.

Automated curbside collection and transfer allow the workforce to focus on back-end processes. At the processing facility, advanced technology whisks recyclable and re-useable materials out of the waste stream for high-tech sortation and processing; the high quality means they find a ready market. Organics are turned into compost, and niche bioenergy systems feed power into the electrical grid, offsetting costs. The amount of waste going to landfill is but a trickle.

At the front end, entrepreneurs communicate with residents and businesses, guiding them on choices that will reduce the amount of waste they generate. Other professionals work with manufacturers and importers to make products and packaging more easily disassembled and re-used or recycled, since extended producer responsibility (EPR) rules require companies, not taxpayers, to pay for end-of-life management of these materials.

Thus describes the global trend toward replacing traditional solid waste management practices with sustainable practices that divert waste from disposal and instead use it as a resource. What is today considered “waste” is increasingly seen as a resource for making new products or for generating energy.

In getting to this bright new future (that’s already underway in most of Canada), one question intrudes: Will there be the right people, with the right skills, to make it happen?

This is the question that ECO Canada, the national sector council for environmental professionals, seeks to answer in its new study, “Solid Waste Management Labour Market Study 2010.” This study examines the human resources issues related to the environmental occupations within the sector in Canada.

High level findings

While the industry awaits the full report to be released this summer, ECO Canada has released these early findings, with more to follow in our September cover article.

The future evolution of the solid waste management industry can be greatly impacted by government policy and regulation. Employers stated that regulations are the most important challenge that can affect the growth of their organizations.

High level findings of the research also indicate a need for better succession planning and knowledge transfer to ensure skill retention for the future. Employers cited the highest level of turnover among laborers and equipment operators, who currently make up the vast majority of total employees. As well, a large number of higher management were older (over 50) and had more than ten years seniority, getting close to retirement.

NOTE: The August/September edition of this magazine will feature an in-depth article about the report’s findings.

ECO Canada is the national sector council for environmental human resources, based in Calgary, Alberta. Carl Friesen, MBA, CMC, is Principal of Global Reach Communications, which helps business professionals demonstrate their expertise through published articles. Contact Carl at 289-232-4057 or

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