The Maturation of the Waste Management Industry

Josephine Rust

Why the Waste Management Industry is one of the most exciting UK sectors to work in

If you are not familiar with the Waste Management industry, you’d be forgiven for thinking that it’s not the most exciting of sectors. And, although it may not be glamorous, I hope I can convince you that Waste Management is one of the most exciting industries to work in in the UK right now. There is a reason it has quickly become my specialism!


The Waste Management Industry is maturing at pace

The UK’s waste management industry grew by 3.3% in 2021 and is expected to keep growing, reaching a potential £18.1 billion in value by 2026.

As a result of this continued growth, we’re currently seeing the accelerated maturation of the Waste Management industry. An expanding market for specialist waste management services is driving growth and diversification in the industry, through new players entering the market, mergers, and acquisitions.

In the staffing sector, we are seeing the signs of this maturity process through an increased demand for operational support roles, such as Health & Safety, Compliance, HR & Logistics.

Waste Management and other similar, traditional industries have historically been behind the curve when it comes to modern business practices; but now they’re catching up and modernising swiftly.


Maintaining the competitive edge – diversification and new technology

Competition in the market is fierce. Cost sensitivity means that Waste Management companies must streamline and diversify to remain competitive.

Increasingly, businesses that had previously been profitable and sustainable on the treatment of a single waste stream, are now having to expand their offering with more clients keen to source their services from a single provider; to drive their own costs down and streamline their internal processes

Businesses seeking to remain competitive and innovative will need to look increasingly towards technology, especially when it comes to optimising their existing operational processes.

These initiatives are helped by modern technologies entering the space such as recycling robots powered by AI, carbon capture technology in the Energy from Waste (EfW) sector, and Smart waste management systems.


Supply chain scrutiny – the impact of the Tender process on the Waste Management Industry

There has been a move within the industry in recent years towards increasingly intensive tender processes.

A global focus on supply chain supervision and transparency means that industries such as waste management need to provide more evidence of their practices, and in turn, this leads to more scrutiny internally on how to improve and document these metrics.

For example, many large public sector contracts now require tendering parties to provide evidence of environmental impacts, pay parity data and health and safety statistics within the tendering process. It is no longer enough to be competitive on price, Waste Management companies must also display equity, safety, and environmental capabilities.


Upskilling existing workforces and employee retention

With a plethora of new businesses in the market, we are seeing a far greater focus on employee retention and succession planning. It is simply not enough to secure the right talent. Businesses must now retain their existing talent whilst upskilling them to develop their leaders of the future.

More roles in the waste management industry are also now requiring qualifications and we are seeing a marked increase in the willingness of companies to pay for their people to undertake these qualifications while working.

A universal push for more diversity in the labour market means that all firms must focus on this to stay relevant. Sophisticated HR and People functions have not always been a focus for large Waste Management organisations. They are now building out those capabilities and driving DE&I initiatives within their organisations.


What does this mean for senior hiring in the Waste Management Industry in 2024, and beyond?

The maturation of the Waste Management market means that senior hires are being approached differently. In the past, Waste Management companies were focused on hiring people from within the industry who could bring a wealth of specific experience to their roles.

More recently, Waste Management has been looking outside to bring more diversity of thought and additional expertise to the business. Candidates from varied backgrounds are now making successful careers in the Waste Management industry.

Hiring from industries which are further along the journey towards maturation has helped many of my clients to think differently about their businesses and move initiatives forward.


What’s next for the Waste Management Industry?

The future of Waste Management is exciting, but there is still a long way to go to bring the industry into line with other comparable sectors in the UK.

Benefits for hourly workers need to catch up with the rest of the market to attract the right talent and create an equitable and sustainable talent pool for the future. Pensions, maternity/paternity and sick pay benefits need to be a focus to diversify the industry from the bottom up.

Similarly, more focus is needed on nurturing talent pools within the industry to train and reward the future leaders of the Waste Management industry, so we can promote from within, alongside continuing to bring in fresh faces from other industries.

Leaders in the Waste Management industry can look to other sectors such as construction, utilities and manufacturing who have already been through this journey and seen remarkable success in focusing on employee retention, upskilling their existing workforce  and H&S.


Are you a leader in your field looking to explore a career in the waste management industry? Or a Waste Management leader looking to make your next strategic hire? 
Get in touch with Josephine Rust or call us on 01937 541 395.

Josephine Rust is Operations Director at Newman Stewart. She specialises in placing senior candidates into strategic roles in the waste management sector globally.

Back to News & Insights

What is Headhunting?

Discover more

Life After Waste: Closing the Loop of the Circular Economy

Discover more

Waste Management and Logistics: Synergies and a Shared Outlook

Discover more