Commercial Waste and Recycling, St Edmundsbury Borough Council and Forest Heath District Council
Over the past 3 months I have been working within the Waste Strategy team. I know what everyone’s first thoughts are – why on earth do you want to work in waste!? However, trust me when I say you’ll be pleasantly surprised by what goes on behind the guise of bin lorries and high visibility jackets. Even I didn’t realise quite how wide the scope of the waste team is despite writing my dissertation on the topic.
From day one the team was keen to include me and offer any help I needed. This was especially useful in my project to develop a strategy to increase the usage of recycling sites in West Suffolk. This is a large issue as there are still many instances of waste contamination where collections contain the wrong materials. This involved finding out where all the sites are located across the district and visiting them to check the site was still at that location, document the condition and what materials are collected there. This was a huge task as there were over 100 sites to visit, many of which are in the more rural parts of West Suffolk. However, as a result I was able to update the data previously held on recycling bring sites which hadn’t been done for a few years. Additionally I produced a report to document any changes that needed to be made to the sites so the council have a record of this and know what actions need to be taken. I also made recommendations such as the use of social media, improving signage and a rewards scheme to increase public engagement with the sites to aid in increasing recycling rates.
One of my highlights was the trip to the Energy from Waste (EfW) site at Great Blakenham. The site helps to prevent large amounts of waste entering landfills by burning it to generate electricity. This can supply up to 30,000 homes with power and reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 75,000 tonnes each year. It was really fascinating to see how waste disposal is adapting to an increasingly environmentally conscious society and being able to experience first-hand the innovations that make this possible. I’d highly recommend going to visit if you get a chance (although maybe not during a heatwave, as temperatures in the building were around 40 degrees celsius the day we visited!)
Another great opportunity was being able to organise a community event surrounding the issue of loneliness with the other interns. The five of us created the Togetherness Fayre which invited charities, community groups, volunteer organisations and the general public to network in order to address loneliness. We also held a market stall which was really great for getting out into the community and talking to people about this issue at hand, as well as promoting our event! Together the interns managed to acquire a venue, sponsorship for tea, coffee and cakes and just under 30 stallholders to put on the event. We even managed to appear in the Bury Free Press for our efforts which was a great feeling. This was such a great experience as I never imagined I would get to organise something of that scale with an added bonus that it was so successful.
Overall I have thoroughly enjoyed the experience of working at the council as it has provided me with a much more detailed knowledge of the waste sector as well as valuable skills to use in the future. The variety of training and information sessions I’ve received has also set me up well for the start of my working life, something I likely wouldn’t have got elsewhere. I would highly recommend this internship to anyone as it is a brilliant introduction to local government and a great addition to your CV.