How I became a Bryson Recycling Communications Manager

Please see below the feature that was in the Belfast Telegraph Job Finder on Friday 8th June focused on Claire McCallum from Bryson Recycling.

Claire is pictured with Bryson the Guide Dog puppy.  Bryson Recycling supported Guide Dogs for the Blind to train the puppy to become a Guide Dog for the Blind.

Give a brief outline of your career to date.

I am the Communications Manager for leading social enterprise company Bryson Recycling, part of Bryson Charitable Group, who deliver a range of recycling services across Northern Ireland, County Donegal and Wales. I’ve been working in Bryson for fourteen years now and previously worked with two different local authorities in Northern Ireland.

What was your favourite subject at school?

I always enjoyed sciences, particularly biology.

Did you go on to further/higher education, if so what did you study and where?

I studied Environmental Sciences at University of Stirling in Scotland from 1997 – 2001.

How did you get into your area of work?

When I graduated in 2001, a lot of the jobs I was interested in applying for were looking for a degree plus one years’ experience, so I contacted Bryson Recycling to see if they had any volunteering opportunities. At the time they employed seven members of staff and were delivering a pilot kerbside box collection scheme to 8000 households in the greater Belfast area and I ended up working with them for a year on a voluntary basis. During this time I helped develop their first website and also launched their household newsletter,which is still going strong today! Once I had a year’s experience under my belt I was able to start applying for jobs and took up my first post in Omagh District Council as a Community Environmental Education Officer in 2002. The following year I started as a Recycling Officer in Castlereagh Borough Council where I worked for a year. In 2004 Bryson Recycling won a number of major council contracts and were looking to expand their team and I got a post with them as a Communications Manager so it was great to get back to where it all began.

Is this what you always wanted to do?

I’ve always had an interest in all things eco-friendly and was a member of the Environment Club  even in primary school. I also grew up in a household where we recycled, collecting up our paper and glass for recycling way before it was the cultural norm. I am pleased that I have managed to find a career doing something I genuinely believe in and with a company who I believe is doing things the right way.

Were there any particular essential qualifications or experience needed?

A degree in a relevant subject and experience was a requirement for my job. Since working at Bryson I have completed a number of different training courses and completed a Diploma in Marketing, Advertising and PR at Queens University a few years ago.  

Are there alternative routes into the job?

Many jobs will look for a certain number of years work experience instead of a degree. I do believe that if you’re working with a company learning the ropes you can gain invaluable experience that you don’t get from sitting in a lecture theatre so it’s worth thinking about what approach would suit you better.

What are the main personal skills your job requires?

Good communications skills are key, with the ability to connect with a wide range of internal and external audiences. It is a busy role, so it’s important to be organised and have the ability to prioritise your workload effectively to ensure you can work to deadlines.

What does a typical day entail?

One of the things I love most about my job is that every day is different. I could be producing leaflets, arranging new graphics for a vehicle, dealing with media enquiries, organising an event or looking at staff engagement amongst other things so there really is never a dull moment! Bryson Recycling has grown significantly since I joined the company in 2004 and there is always something new happening.

What are the best and most challenging aspects of the job?

As part of our social enterprise approach we aim to promote recycling in a way that communities can benefit too, so I really enjoy the CSR side of things.  Lots of local charities have benefited over the years and this always involves fun photocalls including one with our very own guide dog, named Bryson.  One campaign I have enjoyed working on is Recycling Rewards. We have collaborated with three local recycling companies – Huhtamaki, Encirc and Cherry Plastics, and they donate £1 to a local charity for every tonne of paper, glass and plastic recycled through our kerbside box service each year. In the first year we donated to the Children’s Heartbeat Trust and more recently £16,000 to PIPS Charity. To me, this perfectly sums up our social enterprise approach, as it promotes local recycling and also benefits the local community. 

The most challenging aspect of the job is trying to communicate with those hard to reach householders who aren’t recycling – it’s all about identifying the barriers to recycling and trying to overcome them.

Why is what you do important?

Recycling is a very important environmental issue, something that people are becoming increasingly aware of with widespread media coverage on the impact of plastics on our environment. I believe that everyone has a role to play in protecting our environment and my role helps to spread the word on recycling hopefully resulting in people changing their behavior and recycling more. This year also marks the 25th anniversary of Bryson Recycling. The company has achieved a lot and has been responsible for a series of ground breaking initiatives that have been rolled out to a number of councils both here and the UK. In more recent years, we have designed new products to encourage recycling, the Wheelie Box container and Kerb-Sort vehicle. Recycling practices have definitely changed over the years and I’m very proud to work for a company that is constantly leading the way, finding solutions and encouraging people to think about recycling in a positive way.


What advice would you give anyone looking to follow a similar career path?

Most jobs look for relevant experience, so do what you can to get experience along the way as this will make you more employable. Many courses now include work placements, which I think is a great idea.

If you weren’t doing this what would you like to do?

If I wasn’t working in the environmental sector I would like to work in health promotion as this is another subject area I am very interested in.

What is the one piece of advice you would give to yourself on your first day?

Just to make the most of every opportunity – if there is an opportunity to learn something new or get involved in something different take it.

Describe your ideal day off.

I was going to say it would start with a lie in (but with two young kids this is highly unlikely) so I’ll start with a relaxed breakfast followed by a long walk along the coast followed by a picnic with my family.

And finally, what’s the key to any successful job search?

I think the most important thing is to really think hard about what you would like to do, pick something that genuinely interests you and work towards that.

To find out more please go to and keep recycling 

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