Future university graduates could be the key to solving Australia’s recycling crisis if they hone their skills in sustainability, resource efficiency and waste management, according to a Deakin University environmental science researcher.
Deakin School of Life and Environmental Sciences lecturer Dr Trevor Thornton said the skills had emerged as a career-winning qualification on modern resumes, with more employers looking for candidates who had been trained in waste management.
Dr Thornton said there had been a major shift in the perception of waste management, with a new growth industry of experts now being employed to review organisational sustainability and waste action plans.
“The person responsible for waste management at an organisation used to be the cleaner, now we have sustainability managers at the executive level of major companies,” he said.
“More organisations and businesses are recognising the value of having a concerted sustainability plan and employing people with the skills to implement it.”
Dr Thornton said candidates with sustainability skills also stood out in other roles, particularly given the current national conversation about plastic bag bans and recycling issues.
“No matter what career path someone is undertaking, the issue of waste management gives them another string to their bow,” he said.
“Sustainability is a life skill, and the benefits aren’t just environmental – they can also help a business’ bottom line and perception among consumers.”
Dr Thornton said an understanding of regulatory controls, waste auditing techniques and minimisation methods, emerging technologies, clean production, municipal waste laws, and sustainability strategies would only become more valuable as resource management and waste issues continued to exacerbate.
“Whether you’re working in a lab, a factory, a retail business, city council or on a construction site, having the skills to recognise waste management issues and introduce sustainable alternatives makes you a very valuable employee,” he said.