Nathan Cookson, Head of Learning & Development, Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM), reports.
CIWM originated from a background of public cleansing, an area that many have forgotten or ignore. Public cleansing is an important aspect of the environment and covers many sectors – from cleaning staff looking after car parks and hospital porters removing waste from wards to street sweepers tidying up behind the myriad of pedestrians.
There is a perception that sweeping and cleaning is easy. But we’ve moved on from the years when anyone with a mop or brush could do the job. Starting with an emphasis on health and safety for protecting workers, the role of cleaning has become much more complicated, skilled and professional.
Currently waste segregation is required in offices, hospitals and laboratories and there are innumerable procedures and processes required by those that manage waste and clean the environment. It might only be emptying a bin but if there is a requirement for those bin contents to be kept separate from others, cleaning operatives, porters and sweepers need to know why, how and what to do.
One of the biggest factors influencing waste management these days is the need to reduce the amount of waste sent to landfill in order to cut carbon emissions and prevent global warming.
The UK generated 222.2 million tonnes of waste in total in 2018 – so clearly waste management is a massive issue for the country.
CIWM’s aim is to move the world beyond waste. We are supporting the UK’s overall strategic aim of moving from a linear towards a circular economy, where resources are reused and recycled rather than being directly disposed of.
Members of CIWM come from every aspect of business, be it policy developers in government, environment regulators or local authority recycling officers, to behaviour change experts communicating and influencing citizens through education or information to take the right steps on the pathway to a circular economy.
CIWM assists prisons and education facilities in relation to careers and careers guidance, helping the next generation obtain the green skills needed for forthcoming materials resources managers.
Resources and waste management is a complex sector; there are detailed procedures in place for handling hazardous and healthcare waste and there are extensive legislation and regulations that the sector has to adhere to, which are incorporated into waste management facilities environmental permits. As a result, training is now more important than ever. There are more than 5000 registrations every year for the accredited qualifications we offer in the cleaning and waste sectors alone.
CIWM offers entry level training to help employees understand why some of the procedures they undertake have to be done that way.
All businesses should be following the waste hierarchy, looking to reduce the waste they produce and, more relevant for the cleaning service, reducing the hazardousness of materials used, from a health and safety point of view and to protect the environment.
Some cleaning staff in hospitals and other clinical settings require specific skills due to the risk of infection. Those employees working more directly with the collection system will need to understand about the different waste streams that are produced at the office, hospital, laboratory, or retail unit.
Providing cleaning staff, porters etc with a basic understanding about separation and segregation means less impact on the waste management budget as hazardous waste is much more expensive to treat than separated out dry recyclables.
Supervisors have a key role to play throughout the cleansing and waste management service so suitable training is essential. They need to understand the basic legislation around waste management to ensure their teams are fulfilling their roles without contaminating any waste produced but also so they can answer any queries in relation to segregation and handling.
CIWM caters for both operator and supervisor roles but sometimes the qualification or training element we cover in our standard materials requires contextualising so in-company training is required.
During the COVID-19 pandemic our workers were praised by politicians and the public for keeping services going, despite the challenges of the time. However, by and large people have no real understanding about what goes on in the background, be that sorting, treatment or disposal, and the career opportunities afforded by our sector, from engineers, drivers and chemists through to accountants and lawyers.
About the contributor
Head of Learning & Development
Chartered Institute of Wastes Management (CIWM)