At a Glance
Imagine that it is a crisp autumn day and you are enjoying the fresh air as you rake leaves into large piles. This would be a typical October afternoon in many Canadian yards, but in your case, a crowd of interested onlookers is watching as you clean leaves off the lawn! You are a recycling coordinator and today you are demonstrating to a group of concerned citizens the importance of composting and recycling.
Currently, almost 30 percent of your town's landfill consists of the yard and food waste. At the rate this is increasing, the town council will have to build a new landfill in another four years. That's where you come in: by making composting and recycling presentations, you are educating citizens about the importance of reducing, reusing, and recycling. As a recycling coordinator for the town, you share the responsibility of ensuring that your town keeps waste to a minimum, reducing the pressure on landfills.
As a recycling coordinator, you are responsible for advising on the town's policies concerning waste reduction, reuse, and recovery. You are also responsible for implementing these policies, particularly public education. The seminar you're presenting today is part of a recycling program you developed to increase awareness of the benefits of composting. You want the town to stop sending its leaves to the landfill, and one of the best ways to do this is to educate its residents as to the environmental impacts of putting organics such as leaf litter in landfills, namely methane gas production and groundwater pollution.
You are always evaluating and developing recycling programs, so you must keep abreast of recycling trends and innovative developments. Also, implementing new programs involves a great deal of public education and awareness campaigning, so in the course of all these presentations and demonstrations, you've become a good leader and excellent public speaker and have developed a knack for influencing a lot of people.
Duties vary significantly from job to job, but the following list includes typical job duties one might encounter as a recycling coordinator:
- Assist in implementing solid waste recycling programs.
- Plan and coordinate recycling collection programs and monitor the use of recycling facilities.
- Develop strategies for waste minimization and appropriate programming.
- Draft reports, compile statistics, prepare budgets, and assess tenders.
- Coordinate information and education resources for solid waste recycling programs with other departments, municipalities, outside agencies, citizen groups, and businesses.
- Give presentations to the public, including schools, community groups and organizations, and businesses.
- Provide training and assistance to municipal staff on solid waste and recycling programs.
- Investigate complaints regarding the disposal of refuse or recycling collection practices, for example, contaminated recycling bins or barrels.
- Compile reports on a municipality’s recycling program and provide feedback and suggestions on how existing programs can be improved.
- Keep up-to-date on current recycling best practices and legislation.
Recycling coordinators work in a variety of locations, including:
In the office:
- Communicating on the phone and in meetings with clients, stakeholders, government departments, colleagues, and experts in the field
- Explaining programs, policies, and procedures and responding to recycling complaints from the public
- Applying for provincial and federal recycling grants and tendering and awarding recycling contracts
- Preparing reports on local recycling initiatives and conducting research for viable recycling markets for collected material
- Providing advice to decision-and-policy-makers
In the field:
- Making recycling presentations to the public
- Touring recycling plants
- Participating in regional recycling events
- Carrying out research and visiting sites
- Attending conferences and meetings
Where to Work
There are a number of places recycling coordinators can find employment. They include:
- Federal, provincial/territorial, and municipal governments
- Community recycling organizations
- Integrated waste management companies
- Hospitals and health facilities
- Environmental consulting firms
Education and Skills
If you are a high school student considering a career as a recycling coordinator, you should have strong marks or an interest in:
- Social Studies
In most cases, the minimum education requirement to work as a recycling coordinator is a technical diploma.
If you are a post-secondary student considering a career as a recycling coordinator, the following programs are most applicable:
- Waste Management
- Environmental Science
- Environmental Studies
- Environmental Planning
- Environmental Engineering
Recycling coordinators can have a range of backgrounds in addition to those listed above, including post-secondary education in communications and marketing.
Certification is not mandatory in order to work as a recycling coordinator.
Janine Piller recalls, “As soon as I knew you could recycle, I recycled…it was innate.” However, it wasn’t until Janine conducted a survey in university for a commerce class that the idea of opening a recycling business surfaced. “During my survey, a lot of people were talking about recycling, saying ‘If someone would come to pick it up, I’d recycle.’” Janine knew she was on to something.
More than a decade later, as the owner and operator of a Newfoundland recycling company, Janine has cleared many hurdles to create her own business. She credits much of her success to her organizational abilities. “If you are not organized, you won’t be able to properly navigate the ups and downs of the recycling industry.” Janine says it’s also important to “really understand your markets…know your market demand…what does the market need?” Once she mastered that, Janine knew she could deliver a quality service to her customers—an efficient recycling collection service. “A lot of my customers are just delighted. They say ‘I’d never do this recycling normally, but giving it to you is great.”
But owning and operating a recycling business has its drawbacks. One of Janine’s challenges was having to rely on several other businesses to sort and process the variety of recycled materials she collected. “It was really frustrating…because sometimes they would say they were only taking this type of paper, and then the next week, they’d change their minds.” Up until that point, Janine didn’t think she had any other choice. She thought she would have to be at the mercy of these types of selective recyclers for the rest of her career. It wasn’t until Janine thought to herself, “there has to be a different way”, did a little research, and found a company that would take all her recycled materials that her problem disappeared. “You’ve got to be a problem solver…you’ve got to be able to think outside the box.”
Now she can focus on her customers and the purpose of her business—recycling. “I always feel great satisfaction that it’s not going to the landfill.”