Waste Management Specialist

Waste management specialists plan, implement, and coordinate comprehensive waste management systems that are designed to maximize waste prevention, reuse, and recycling opportunities. They can be involved in all stages of a project, for example establishing a company’s waste management goals and objectives, working with employees to help implement waste management policies, and evaluating the success of management plans. Waste management specialists play a key role in minimizing the impact of waste and protecting the environment.

At a glance

Imagine you are giving a presentation to plant managers and senior executives of a large oil and gas company. You are a waste management specialist and this company has hired your firm to develop a comprehensive waste management plan for its entire operation. This oil and gas company wants to improve its reputation and demonstrate its commitment to environmental protection and conservation. It has chosen your firm because it knows you have the experience and expertise to clean up its operations. As a waste management specialist, you have been preparing waste management strategies and leading teams of consultants, engineers, and processing experts for years. For this project, you start by conducting a waste audit of the company, including interviewing staff, reviewing records, and visiting field operations to determine the different types and quantities of waste produced. You also review the company's current waste handling, storage, and disposal policies for both hazardous and non-hazardous waste to make certain it's in compliance with applicable regulations. Once the audit is complete, you and your team will evaluate the results and research methods for improving current policies. You will look at options for new waste management equipment and determine specifications for collecting and processing specific wastes. You will consult with the company's suppliers to find products that can be disposed of more economically or arrange with suppliers to handle wastes from their own products as they are delivered. Your team will also look into waste generation streams and where the waste is coming from as a means of identifying opportunities to reduce waste generation and finding ways to reuse and recycle what would otherwise be thrown away.

Job duties

Duties vary significantly from job to job, but the following list includes typical job duties one might encounter as a waste management specialist:
  • Plan and coordinate various waste management and recycling projects.
  • Identify and quantify wastes.
  • Coordinate the documentation required to label, move, track, and report waste and waste initiatives.
  • Evaluate waste management options and apply a waste hierarchy model in order to reduce, reuse, recycle, recover, and dispose of waste material.
  • Conduct research and analytical studies on a variety of waste management programs and issues.
  • Investigate the life expectancy of consumable products and recommend options for more economical and environmentally friendly materials or processes.
  • Work with company personnel in developing an appropriate and user-friendly waste management system.
  • Assist in budget preparation and administration, including determining financial methods, procedures, and costs pertaining to environmental compliance and waste management services.
  • Stay informed with respect to waste management regulations and ensure regulations are being adhered to.
  • Provide waste management training to clients and staff.
  • Participate in auditing processes, including approvals, water monitoring reports, engineering designs, and contingency planning.

Work environment

Waste management specialists work in a variety of locations, including: In the office:
  • Doing paperwork, analyzing data, and preparing reports
  • Communicating on the phone and in meetings with colleagues and clients, and presenting findings and recommendations to clients
  • Researching waste regulations and consulting with other professionals
In the field:
  • Touring and inspecting waste management facilities and reviewing waste management practices and policies
  • Collecting samples and information
  • Evaluating and implementing waste management plans
  • Identifying and auditing receivers, handlers, and transporters of generated waste

Where to work

There are a number of places waste management specialists can find employment. They include:
  • Federal, provincial/territorial, and municipal government departments
  • Environmental and engineering consulting firms
  • Manufacturing and processing firms
  • Waste management firms
  • Recycling companies
  • Other industries, for example health care, automotive, and tourism

Education & requirements

If you are a high school student considering a career as a waste management specialist, you should have strong marks or an interest in:
  • Chemistry
  • Biology
  • Mathematics
  • English
In most cases, the minimum education requirement to work as a waste management specialist is a university undergraduate degree. If you are a post-secondary student considering a career as a waste management specialist, the following programs are most applicable:
  • Waste Management
  • Environmental Science
  • Environmental Management
  • Chemistry
  • Environmental Engineering
  • Civil Engineering
It is not mandatory to be certified in order to work as a waste management specialist.


A waste management specialist in an entry level position makes an average of $55,000 per year in Canada. With several years of education and experience, waste management specialists can make between $78,000 and $88,000 per year.

Role Model

Laura Thomas

Math and science have held my interest since high school. As I studied for my bachelor’s degree in engineering, my long time interest in the environment was also stimulated. In the third year of my program I had the opportunity to travel to Thailand and participate in an environmental engineering work term. I loved the experience so much I decided to focus my Masters degree on international development work. With a focus on international development I pursued elective courses such as Spanish language training outside of the engineering core program. After graduation I immediately found a job conducting waste management research at the World Bank where I was able to use my newly developed skills. In Canada companies that hire waste management specialists include all levels of government, industry and environmental consulting firms. In my relatively short career so far I have gained experience in different cultures and diverse teams of people. I learned a great deal from these people and experiences. When I see the environmental situations in other countries, I realize how lucky we are here in Canada. I am a member of the Association of Professional Engineers, Geologists and Geophysicists of Alberta (APEGGA). In Alberta, to gain professional status as an engineer, membership in APEGGA is required. I am also a member of the International Solid Waste Management Association. Both of these associations are good sources of current information and provide excellent networking opportunities, especially at conferences. I also take courses and seminars and read extensively to expand my skill and knowledge base. My interest areas are diverse and I try to retain a balance between the technical aspects of engineering and the human aspects of the environment. Waste management professionals will see good potential for advancement and salary increases in the next few years. There will be increased emphasis on responsible environmental management from the private sector, government and international markets. The demand for people with a balance between technical and business skills will be strong as companies around the world adopt the responsibility for sound environmental management. Anyone who wants to work in waste management should know that the results of your work are evident in the short term. You do not have to wait years to see the effect of a solid waste clean up project. This is one of the most rewarding aspects of this type of work. If you want to work internationally, I suggest you follow your passion. "Do what you love and the work will follow” is some good advice I received from a university advisor. In this occupation you truly can improve the lifestyles of people and at the same time clean up the environment. Although I often travel to other countries, my usual location is in an office for a typical forty-hour week. Throughout the day I am involved in meetings with clients and colleagues, technical design, report writing and fieldwork. Fieldwork requires special skills and safety procedures for the transportation of dangerous goods, soil and water sampling, drilling and construction safety. When working in other countries, the company I work for establishes a long-term local partnership so the skills to maintain the systems we introduce can be imparted to the local people. Communication skills are very important in this job to get information across to team members from other cultures who speak a different language. In a short period of time I have accumulated a wide variety of experience in Canada and in international projects. What I have to offer the environment and the future of my profession is the determination and enthusiasm to achieve my goals. By continuing to work with highly skilled people in challenging projects around the world, I will be able to improve my skills and the living conditions of the people in developing nations.