So, you want a career in recycling? (Your engineering degree will come in handy!)

Careers Advice
30 July 2019 | Careers Advice | Guest Author

As the world becomes more and more aware of the potential climate crisis, which is just around the corner, recycling is playing an increasingly important part of our personal lives, but also for businesses. With pressure coming onto businesses to be more environmentally friendly – whether it is through cutting carbon emissions, reducing their waste, recycling waste, and incorporating recycled products and packaging into their processes and production, there is set to be a boom in careers in recycling over the next few years.

The EU has set targets to increase the amount of household waste, which is recycled to 50% by 2020. According to government statistics, we have reached 45.7%. Although this seems to be fairly close to the target, there is still a way to go before next year. And that’s not to mention business waste!

As we look to improve the process and efficiency of recycling in the UK, careers for engineers are mounting up. So, if you have a degree in engineering, what career options do you have available to you?

Recycling Equipment

Specialist recycling equipment needs to be designed, developed, and maintained and if you have an engineering degree you could be well placed to work in this area. Commercial cardboard recycling experts are always looking to improve their machines and products as well as keep them maintained.

With pressure on businesses to continue to use recycled materials or materials which can be recycled, there are plenty of problems out there which can be solved by engineering and help to reduce our impact on the environment – both in business and in our personal lives.

Businesses are always looking for engineers to come up with better, easier to use, more efficient, less costly and more eco-friendly products and packaging, and engineers can play an important role in the design, building, development and maintenance of this type of product.

Regulation and Management

This new equipment also needs to be monitored, regulated and managed to ensure that it is doing its job properly, and someone who has a degree in engineering would normally have the skills to carry out these important roles. Whilst it is not hands-on engineering, this is a good option for those who do not want a career as some sort of engineer.

Working as a consultant, manager, support, or equipment supplier are all good options in this section.

If you are thinking about working in a regulatory capacity, career opportunities are available both for specific companies, but also for government regulatory agencies. They always need people with technical knowledge, the ability to analyse and solve problems, and carry out testing – and often look for people who have a background in engineering.

Repair and Reuse

Another trend that we are beginning to see amongst the general public is the idea of not creating so much waste at all – whether it can be recycled or not. Campaigns encourage people to reuse their waste or repair it wherever possible. A life based around consumerism isn’t really very good for the planet; this is why many people are pushing the pubic to try to avoid throwing things away in general.

With fewer disposable products and more, which can be repaired, we can significantly cut down on the amount of waste that we create. For engineers, this means that more robust and effective products are needed to be first developed and maintained, but also repaired – offering important job opportunities for those with an engineering degree.

Future Recycling Trends

Whilst recycling, as we know it now, is becoming more and more important, it is also important for engineers to think about the future of recycling.

We are seeing more and more need for the recycling of electronic items. There is still very little that we can do with recycled parts of electronic waste and this is earning the UK a reputation for being one of the worlds’ biggest offenders in creating e-waste.

A lot of time engineers and designers must find a balance between something that is as efficient and effective as possible, as well as being financially and physically viable for a business or person. Although society as a whole is beginning to wake up to the impending problems that are facing up to us, there are still many, many businesses and people who are not willing to change their lives either because financially it doesn’t work for them, or because it is too inconvenient.

Engineers can play an important role in the future of recycling in society, in helping businesses and everyday people to be able to recycle more effectively and efficiently. So, engineers, the future of the planet is in your hands!

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