The accreditation or recognition of those working within the waste and recycling sector has indeed
been discussed for some years here in Australia. As a proud Chartered Waste Manager (Chartered
Institution of Wastes Management) I am one individual who believes that the professional
recognition of industry practitioners is an essential part of developing the waste/resource
management sector. Although this view is not shared by all in the sector.
In 2015, we saw Australia’s Assistant Treasurer, Kelly O’Dwyer, respond to the David Murray-led
Financial Systems Inquiry. Her announcement that all financial planning advisors will be required by
law from July 2017 to hold a degree (or equivalent), undertake a professional year, pass a national
competency examination, commit to continuous professional development and subscribe to a Code
of Ethics was not unexpected. Previously, I just needed to have completed a seven-week course and
have an appetite for selling high-commission products to anyone I could in order to call myself a
An increasing number of occupations are seeking ‘professionalization, accreditation, certification or
recognition’ (there is a difference). These range from the health and safety through to the human
resources sector and some are seeing a ‘licence to operate’, more often than not imposed through
regulation (contaminated land auditors and now financial planners, for example).
The waste and secondary-resource management sector is a growing industry that is central to the
enactment of environmental policies and goals in most countries, both with advanced and growing
economies. Increasing regulation of the waste management sector globally is seeing a rise in the
number of professionals ‘testing’ their professionalism and drawing on professional certifications to
prove competence and validate their findings/work where there are professional networks in place.
Certainly, the credentials of an individual acting in an ‘expert witness’ capacity are more readily
accepted and proven where certification is held.
But it is not just a case of ‘accreditation’. Some key premises for understanding the development of
occupational competence are how individuals come to identify with that occupation and what
support provisions (including, but not limited to qualifications and continuing professional
development) are made accessible in developing both their occupational capacities and sense of self
as a practitioner or professional within the sector. Together, these comprise key bases for the
formation of occupational competence and the premises for individual’s association with and
learning for particular occupations. Yet, such bases are not consistently afforded across
occupations, with some enjoying greater esteem and development opportunities than others, and
also differentiations in the kinds of educational provisions and sector support being afforded to
support engagement and learning. Such provisions are not well developed in Australia for the waste
and recycling sector and, as such, those working in waste management do not enjoy the same
development opportunities as those working in waste management in other countries, such as the
United Kingdom or the United States.
Professional industry bodies and institutions have a critical role in raising the prestige and
professionalism of the industry and/or individuals that they represent. As such, associations tend to
be governed by their members and therefore reflect the requirements of the industry as perceived
through its members, be those individuals, corporate organisations or a mixture of both.
Being a member of a professional body does make a statement about an individual’s professional
capabilities and commitment to an industry, but only in an industry which recognises its value.
Evidence does support professional memberships and industry bodies, and as more members of an
association become professionally recognised, the lobbying power of that sector is shown to be
increased with the influence of the association being directly proportional to the (size and status of
the) membership. This approach may increase Australia’s waste sector’s lobbying power and
perception by key decision makers, and create a more measured and consistent policy and
To read more please see my latest ‘Waste Opportunist’ column for Inside Waste at