Waste Management Career Field

Waste Management Careers Outlook

Waste Management CareersEvery part of the country employs waste management professionals. Heavily industrialized areas and areas experiencing strong economic growth are prime users of waste management professionals. The general condition of a region, its markets for scrap materials and recyclable materials, and other factors affect jobs available.

Political support for the environment and the state of the U.S. economy also play roles in the number of jobs available at any given time. Most waste-management work hinges on whether new regulations are being passed and whether existing regulations are being enforced. When times are hard, the federal government is less likely to have the funds, manpower, and political nerve to start passing tougher laws and prosecuting violators. During such times, the number of new jobs grows more slowly.

Still, the waste management industry is very well entrenched in this country and promises to continue to employ hundreds of thousands of people in the coming decades. The U.S. Census Bureau projects that the population will increase from an estimated 282 million in 2000 to more than 419 million by 2050. If current waste practices continue, the number of jobs available in the industry will certainly increase as well. Spending on waste management has skyrocketed in recent years. The public and private sectors will continue to spend billions of dollars on waste management through the early part of the 21st century. U.S. industry’s need to comply with federal, state, and local regulations relating to waste management has created a strong market for those with an expertise in waste management. New strategies for source reduction, recycling, volume reduction, toxicity reduction, treatment, and disposal are needed at the municipal and industrial levels.

If the government is strict about enforcing environmental legislation, private businesses will hire more people to ensure compliance. A 2002 report by the EPA cited a 40 percent increase over 2001 in the number of criminal cases initiated and a 26 percent increase in the number of companies self-reporting violations. Professionals who can help companies avoid such fines will indeed be valuable. While these fines are concerned largely with hazardous waste, companies also will invest in developing alternative disposal techniques and waste-reduction plans for nonhazardous solid waste.

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