Where there's muck there's brass - future looks rosy for waste and contaminated land

The Environmental Industries Commission keeps a close eye on developments within the sector. Here director Merlin Hyman and two of the organisations group heads assess the prospects for those working in the waste management and contaminated land arenas.

In recent years the scale of the challenge we face in tackling environmental problems has become evident.

Almost on a daily basis new reports add to the body of evidence identifying the urgency with which these challenges have to be met. As a result environmental issues are now very much at the centre of political debate.

2006 will go down as the year when the political establishment finally started to take the looming environmental crisis seriously.

The Environmental Industries Commission (EIC) has lobbied at the highest levels of Government that high environmental standards and a strong economy not only can, but must, go hand in hand.

This position finally received widespread acceptance with the publication of the Stern Review, which concluded that tackling climate change is the pro-growth strategy.

The review concluded that action on climate change will create significant business opportunities as new markets are created.

The review stated that these markets could grow to be worth hundreds of billions of dollars each year, and employment in these sectors will expand accordingly.

This should be good news for the environmental technology and services (ETS) industry, which provides solutions to many of the environmental challenges we face.

The recent Environmental Industries Unit study of emerging markets in the environmental industries sector concluded that the current annual turnover in the UK for the environmental sector is more than £25 billion. It is estimated that this will increase to more than £34 billion by 2010 and £46 billion by 2015.

It is evident, therefore, that the sector is growing, and will continue to grow, however does the UK have the necessary skills to match the growing recruitment demands of this flourishing industry?

The chairs of each of the EIC's fourteen working group's have considerable experience with recruitment, training opportunities and employment prospects in each of their sectors.

Here, the chairs of two of EIC's leading working group's share this experience and offer their views on where they see the industry developing, what particular areas they expect to see the biggest growth in and what kind of professionals are likely to be needed.

First, Jonathan Davis, chair of EIC's waste resources management working group, gives his perspective on the employment opportunities in the waste sector.

Second, Alistair Kean, chair of EIC's contaminated land management working group outlines where he sees the biggest areas of growth in the land remediation sector.

Waste Management

The waste management market is continuing to move towards that of materials resources management - which is itself increasingly moving towards a perception of total carbon management, not least because of the lead being given by Rt Hon David Miliband MP, Secretary of State for the Environment.

Although the revised Waste Strategy is not due out until spring 2007, it is likely to focus on:

  • Waste prevention, in the wider sustainable consumption and Production agenda
  • Inclusion of resources from commercial and industrial waste materials
  • The need for infrastructure delivery in the treatment of waste in each part of the chain.
  • Waste as a resource and its place in a Carbon economy

    This itself will affect:
  • Carbon accounting as a significantly greater part of the assessment of waste and resource management options
  • Transport and multiple handling, whose impacts will become a more significant consideration
  • The need to take into account carbon offsets, which will significantly boost recovery of materials and energy
  • Processes emitting methane, which will be disadvantaged in comparison with those emitting carbon dioxide
  • Resource efficiency, as minimised waste production will become even more cost-effective

    Other factors in the market include:
  • Further consolidation amongst contractors, and exploitation of economies of scale
  • The entry of large engineering contractors, and facilities management companies
  • The effects of high energy and higher materials prices, improving the viability of many recovery processes
  • Repositioning of traditional waste handling companies as quality assured material supply companies

    All of these factors will broaden the recruitment, employment and training opportunities towards wider skill areas, including materials flow modelling and economics; life cycle/whole life assessments; behavioural change; and commodity marketing - as well as further developments in traditional facility procurement and design, which is already demonstrating the importance of aesthetic merit in community acceptance.

    Land Remediation

    Over the last ten years the contaminated land and brownfield regeneration sector has seen continued steady growth.

    With the current buoyancy in the UK economy and the shortage of suitable building land, it seems likely this growth will continue in the foreseeable future.

    Consultants have seen particularly sustained growth in the area of contaminated land assessment.

    From desk studies through to an increased number of site investigations and ultimately quantified risk assessments, skilled consultants are in high demand.

    The complexity of modern quantified risk assessments means a substantial opportunity in training. Shortages of experienced personnel in site investigation and risk assessment means that this is as good a time to be involved in this sector.

    Salaries have risen considerably in the last few years and the employment prospects for new geo-environmental graduates are very good.

    The remediation and regeneration side of the business is also booming. Large civil engineering contractors are becoming involved in site remediation and this demonstrates how valuable this market has become.

    Again career prospects for engineers and environmental scientists wishing to be involved in contracting are extremely good.

    At present there are more regeneration projects underway than ever before within the UK. With our planning officials quite rightly requesting environmental analysis on almost all previously used sites, it seems likely that this trend will continue.

    Our continuous recycling of previously used land means that the land bank is being created almost as fast as it is being remediated, even if industrial practices have improved. The land regeneration sector certainly looks set for a rosy future.

  • Merlin Hyman is a director of the EIC
  • Jonathan Davies is chair of the EIC's waste resources management working group and a director of consultancy Enviros
  • Alistair Kean is chair of the EIC's contaminated land working group and director of IKM Environmental Consulting Ltd

    The Environmental Industries Commission (EIC) works to provide the environmental technology and services (ETS) industry with a strong and effective voice with Government in the debate about how to ensure that British companies succeed in a rapidly growing world-wide market. With over 300 company Members, EIC is the lead trade association for the ETS industry. More information can be found on its website at www.eic-uk.co.uk.

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