Volunteering: the feel-good factor

29 June 2023

Tina Benfield, FCIWM Technical Manager

On the back of volunteering week, I thought I would look at how CIWM utilises the body of knowledge within its membership, to support the Policy and Technical team (PolTec). 

Many of you will be aware that the PolTec team sit on several stakeholder groups to represent the views of the CIWM membership; liaising with Defra on waste strategy implementation; POPs in soft furnishings and HMRC in relation to plastic packaging tax, to name just a few. To perform these roles the team rely on our member’s expertise and knowledge to help take forward thoughts, highlight practical issues, and sense check our own understanding. 

This is invaluable input for the team as we cannot possibly be experts in every area of resources and waste management (no, really, we cannot, our brain cells only cope with a limited number of topics) and we certainly cannot cover every subject in detail.

Our main Policy and Innovation Forum has now been established and CIWM members are giving their time to CIWM to help steer the sector’s transition from a linear, make-take-dispose route to a more circular economy, resource efficient sector.  Without members willing to give time to this Forum CIWM’s PolTec team would struggle to see what is need, when and how. 

This is a new group and may well call on experts to assist in its programme of work or seek input from specific areas. CIWM has also asked members to sit on stakeholder groups on our behalf; some of our members have more related experience than the team or it is a very specific topic that can only be addressed through a member. 

These people are sought through our Technical Communities, Strategic Expert Groups (SEGs) and other routes, so if you want to get involved and assist CIWM, do engage with CIWM Connect  and put yourselves forward for groups.

Consultations are another area that needs input with more brain power than the PolTec team alone. Some of the topics need detail we, as a team, do not possess and others need the collective thinking that our recent Task and Finish groups procedure has been set-up for.  Depending on whether the consultation comes from England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland or Ireland – sets a mechanism in motion. 

For England many of the topics are known to the team and being on one or more of the stakeholder groups helps us think about the preliminary response.  For the other countries PolTec rely on members in the regional centres to help determine the need for a response in the first instance as well as for the detail; because we may well know the topic but set in the context of different policy and legislation makes a difference. 

Again, we have used Task and Finish groups to gather Centre members, to give us their thinking and comments.  So, if you see a call for input to a consultation, from your Centre, please do consider taking part and helping CIWM formulate a considered response. This has helped Centre countries get themselves known with the Government policy team and regulator lead.

You will have recently seen the mention of our recent work with members in the Members Newsletter that comes to your mailbox every Friday. CIWM responded to the EFRA Committee call for evidence on soil health and this was completed with extensive input from CIWM members from the bioresources sector. 

Once the written evidence was submitted CIWM was called to give oral evidence alongside REA and ADAS, this again could only happen with input from CIWM’s members – so Dr Jane Gilbert gave evidence on our behalf.  This has happened several times in the past, with CIWM members being supported by one of the PolTec team. So, your input to a consultation could mean you supporting CIWM further via more detailed, oral evidence that is recorded at Committee level.

CIWM members are allocated to Centres - geographical regions according to their home postcode. Volunteers take on roles in these Centres to put on events or site visits to encourage members in their area to learn about new technologies, make new contacts and reconnect with old friends and colleagues. Volunteers are essential to these Centres, helping to help ‘run’ the programme of events and meetings.  So, if you feel you could assist your fellow local members, do get in touch with your Centre representatives, details are on the Centre webpages .

CIWM’s International Group incorporates the work of ISWA (International Solid Waste Association) and CIWM members are selected from a call of interest to sit for three years. Being a member of ISWA is a requisite but there are many CIWM members who have taken this move. (Contact membership@ciwm.co.uk if you are interested in our relationship).

Members support CIWM on ISWA Working Groups, attending meetings and reporting on issues, with the opportunity to seek comment and thought from EU and world-wide members of ISWA. This group will be looking at how CIWM can foster links with other world bodies, to learn and benefit CIWM’s members here in the UK.

CIWM is aware that its members have a lot of experience and expertise that could be passed on to other members, those looking to move into different aspects of resources and waste management, even those that are new into the sector and want to progress and improve their skills. How can CIWM members help? This is where joining the mentor platform can help you learn new skills, coaching and mentoring as well as new technical detail – learning from your mentees. So, if you feel you have the skills to help others, do join the platform.

Are you Chartered?  Are you eligible for Fellow?  Perhaps you have considered going for Chartered Environmentalist (CEnv), many of our members have gone through these levels and CIWM needs volunteers to do this.  Our Chartered, Fellow and CEnv panels all rely on CIWM members giving us their time to form the panels. 

There are too many to list them all to thank for their time over the years, but we are grateful for their time and passion but we always need new panellists; three members are required for each panel, so if you wish to get involved do look out for calls of interest or contact membership@ciwm.co.uk. If you want to upgrade or go for CEnv please do also contact membership.

CIWM’s policy and technical team are regularly asked for speakers, either for Centre events, our own main events or related sector conferences and workshops.  Have you considered speaking on some of the work you do, presenting academic research, or enabling others to learn from case studies?

Perhaps this is a good time to talk to the PolTec team, raising awareness to CIWM about yourself. Contact us on technical@ciwm.co.uk and let us know how you could help.
In summary how does PolTec utilise our body of knowledge:
Speakers for events
Consultation responses
Strategic Expert Groups (SEGs)
Policy and Innovation Forum (PIF)
International Group - ISWA
Centre activities
Panels for Chartered, Fellow and CEnv

Volunteering is not just a feel-good factor, as indicated above, CIWM members can learn from mentees, panellists hear about new technologies, widening their own networks and expertise.  So, to all those that already support PolTec by being part of our groups, helping on consultations or offering themselves as a speaker we thank you from the bottom of our technical hearts. 

PolTec cannot do all of what we do without you, but we hope you learn and develop yourselves in the process. PolTec see you as Ambassadors for CIWM and support you in any way we can, so do join us next time you see a call for assistance.