ISWA Young Professional of the Month

Each month we profile a different member of the ISWA Young Professionals so that you get to know the the ever expanding group, their different working and academic backgrounds and thoughts on the current waste situation.

YP of the Month: November 2017: Paul Stegmann (Germany)


Paul joined ISWA YPG in early 2016 and is since September 2016 responsible for the group Mentorship & career Development. He was working as Project Coordinator at the ISWA General Secretariat but is now doing a PhD at Utrecht University.


       When did you decide to work with waste?


I was thinking about making up a nice story of a revelation to work with waste, because the truth is rather boring: I am interested in all kind of environmental topics and my specific interest in waste and resource management rather grew gradually during my Master in Sustainable Development. The key decision to work in the field I eventually took during my work at GIZ where I organized a waste management course for participants from Ghana and Kenya which involved many exciting site visits.


      Can you tell us about your research area?


I’m now researching in the field of the bio-based economy. I’m focusing on the future role of bio-based chemicals and materials and on how cascading and recycling can improve the Greenhouse Gas balance of the bio-based value chains. Bioeconomy is a very wide and interesting field but the linkages with the recycling sector are still in its infancy. I hope to improve that with my research and would like to bring stakeholders from both sectors together.


     Please tell us about your research institute


I’m working in the Energy & Resources group within the Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development at Utrecht University. The institute is very interdisciplinary with researchers from various backgrounds and countries which makes the work here very exciting.


       Tell us more about your working experience in ISWA?


Working at the ISWA General Secretariat was an amazing experience as it put me right at the pulse of what is happening in the sector. Especially the trips for projects and conferences around the world left a lasting impression. Nothing shows you the urgency of improving waste management better than standing on one of the big dumpsites  and experiencing the challenges in various countries. Of course it  was great for networking as well. But above all I really enjoyed the team spirit of the GS staff and YP members, and the true motivation they have to improve conditions worldwide.

I always enjoyed working with the YP group and learn from their experiences and ideas from all over the world. I am happy that I still can support them, even though I put my focus a bit more on other things since I moved to the Netherlands.


       Could you tell us more about Career development and Mentorship Working group?


I think the group bears a lot of responsibility as professional development is one of the main motivations why young people around the world join the YPG and we have to provide useful tools to support them. The group expanded quickly since the last year. In the beginning the focus was on setting up the second run of the mentorship programme which was a lot of work. Then we set up the career talks which are a great way to get a glimpse into certain career paths. In the future we might also complement it with some webinars dedicated at improving certain skills useful for your career development. In the last meeting a lot of new members joined the group and many new ideas were discussed. Now we have to see which we are able to implement given the limited resources we have.

If you have good ideas on how to improve or create new services of the group and/or are motivated to support us please contact us.


       What are your future plans?


For now I have 4 years of PhD waiting for me. Afterwards? Difficult to say but working in the conjunctions of the bioeconomy and waste management to improve the cooperation along the value chain sounds like something to aim for. Be it as a (self-employed) consultant or in research I still have to find out.

Previous Months

October 2017: Frida Jones, Sweden

Dr Frida Jones works at RISE Research Institute of Sweden and has an MSc in Atmospheric Chemistry and a PhD in combustion Chemistry. Her work is focused around waste, and her expertise is in characterisation of waste fuel for combustion.


Can you tell us about your research area?


I have been working within the field of waste for more than ten years. My PhD is in inorganic chemistry, with the focus on characterisation of solid waste for combustion purposes. Much of my work still relates to Waste to Energy facilities and their challenges, but I have also worked more with waste management in general the last few years. I am currently based in Toronto, Ontario, financed by the Swedish Governmental Agency for Innovation Systems, to learn more about Canadian (and North American) Waste Management. My hopes are to expand my knowledge and be able to see the big picture better, as waste is a global issue rather than a local one.


Please tell us about your research institute


RISE (Research Institutes of Sweden) is the largest research institute in Sweden, with about 2200 employees. We offer a wide variety of applied research, development, consultation, SME support, certification, test facilities, and much more in many different areas. I work in the division of Built Environment at the department of Energy and Circular Economy and have been with the company since 2007.


Where can we read the works you have published over the years? Could you provide us the links?


The scientific publications I have are all listed on my LinkedIn-profile ( Other reports and articles are published as project reports, for example, reports published by the Swedish Waste Management Association.


What advice would you give to young researchers trying to figure out their research interest?


I think my best advice would be to network and try to talk to people that are in the area you’re interested in.  Maybe find a mentor to learn from and gather information on your topic of interest. Research requires a natural curiosity, if you feel you have to force it; the area or topic is probably not for you. However, there will for sure be times when you’ll struggle, and in the end, it’s overcoming these time periods that only feels as if they are full of challenges that is the most rewarding!


How did ISWA and YPG help you in your career?


I joined the ISWA YPG in March this year and have since then been involved in the Mentorship Programme, both by having my own mentor, but also by helping out with the programme itself. So far I have enjoyed all the parts of the YPG group that I have been exposed to. I enjoy the way we help each other out via our WhatsApp-chat, I think us working together on the world-wide survey for the Baltimore congress was great, and I really enjoyed meeting the YPGs that had the possibility to join the congress. I believe that just by being in, and working with, the YPG will provide many advantages in the future, as we are the new generation and the international network we are building is amazing.


Could you tell us more about the new initiative of ISWA Women of Waste where you are involved?


I am one of the founding women of the Women of Waste network that is an initiative supported by ISWA. We aim to advocate and put spotlight on women’s work and achievement in the waste sector. The initiative was launched during the congress in Baltimore and it was a great success with more people than chairs and very interesting discussions. My hope for WOW is that I want to e able to be a part of something that is strengthening women in all parts of the waste management sector; the academia, the industry, and in the informal sector. I want us women to empower each other, to support each other, to mentor each other, and to lift each other. 


What are your future plans?


As mentioned before I am currently based in Canada and I hope that I can bring a new perspective, and maybe some new ideas back to Sweden when my project is finalized. I also hope to be able to establish and maintain some good contacts to increase the cooperation between our countries. I am also studying to acquire a certificate of Leaderships Essentials and hope to be able to put my new tools and ideas in to practise. Simultaneously, I am studying and preparing for the PMP exam (certified Project Manager) which I believe will be useful to improve my skills further. I might have worked as a Project Manager for more than ten years but I believe that learning new things and seeing things from different perspectives is developing and fun.   

SEPTEMBER 2017: Ksityn Oldendorf, USA

Kristyn works in the Office of Legislative Affairs for the Department of Public Works in Baltimore City. In the past few years, she worked on projects including the distribution of municipal trash cans throughout the city, the implementation of expanded mechanical street sweeping, the switch to a new water billing system, and more. Her interests also include sustainable materials management, composting, and waste management in developing countries.


The video of the interview can be found here:




August 2017: Kamal Raj, India

YPG of August Kamal Raj leads ISWA YPG Indian Chapter. Biotechnologist by education, Kamal Raj has 6 years of professionally experience in Municipal Waste Management. Currently, he is leading solid waste initiatives at Infosys Ltd. He specializes in organic waste management, decentralized facilities and smart waste management strategy. Here you can learn more about his activities at Infosys Ltd. Kamal also contributes to the development of Reapbenefit social enterprise.

The video of the interview can be found here:


How did you develop passion to Waste Management?


I’ve been passionate about Waste Management for 7 years and I am also professionally involved in the field. India, being among the most populated country in this world lacks the primary sanitation and waste management. This is my main motivation to apply for waste management sector in 2011 after my graduation. I started to work in home composting private company, which encouraged waste segregation and composting. Starting from that time I also focused on my own startup which is called Reapbenefit. We developed 2 products in waste management exclusively for home composting and community composting which enabled several individuals and the communities across the city to practice the sustainable way of garbage disposal. But interestingly what happened, is that I realized that cities’ civic infrastructure could not create the eco system for safe disposal and that triggered the need in me to go forward and understand the technologies, bring international collaborations, work with the local governments and other local bodies to address waste management from innovation perspective, from policy perspective and from systematic change perspective, which I believe is needed for a developing country like India. Waste Management became part of my life. It is my passion and something I believe is a primary right of every citizen of developing country as India.


Why did you decide to lead the local ISWA YP group in India?


India is blessed to have a high proportion of younger population. Also, now India goes through transformation when the civic bodies are failing to provide sufficient waste management. This is the time when the both challenges can benefit each other. ISWA YPG is perfect for that. I was introduced to ISWA YPG last year at IFAT Fair in Munich. I understood it could be a platform where we can make exchanges between young professionals in India and have international exposure for young professionals. Most of ISWA YPG members in India work in non-governmental organization. It increasingly becomes important for us to give them the platform where they can create, exchange, co-create and innovate solutions to the challenges India has to deal with in respect to waste management. And I believe that if today’s youth can be directed to platforms as ISWA YPG, India won’t deal with such waste problems as so far. Therefore, I decided to lead the local group and I have a great team: Vishvas and Aditi. They are fantastic leaders, fantastic friends. I have no better reason to lead ISWA YPG.

July 2017: Jiao Tang, China/Austria

Jiao Tang, China/Austria

Jiao Tang is Head of Technical Cooperation at ISWA. Focus: bring assistance to places in need of sustainable waste management worldwide

A girl with geography: born in China, had lived in Australia, Switzerland and Singapore, settled so far in Vienna. But you can also catch up with her in many parts of the world where she is traveling or implementing projects. Responsible, energetic and keen in bringing people together - all that helped her to shape and lead the ISWA YPG in its initial two years of development.

Motto of the day : "If you do anything you like for at least 10 minutes a day, you will achieve results! It goes especially for learning languages."


The video of the interview can be found here:


Do you remember the moment when you decided to start ISWA Young Professionals Group?


Jiao: Very clearly, it was the year when I joined ISWA in 2013 in the Vienna office. It was also the year when ISWA hosted the World Congress in Vienna. The Vice President of ISWA, Carlos Silva Filho, suggested this idea to the Board. He wanted to see how many young professionals were interested in this idea. So ISWA organized the Young Professionals Meeting at the Congress. I thought it was an excellent idea: “ I am young and I am new to the industry”, so I went there. There were about 20-30 young professionals from all over the world: from Brazil, the Netherlands, Australia, etc.. There were people there who have become the leading force of the Young Professionals Group. We shared our passion and our concerns for the world. And it seemed that there were lots of things in common what we care about. After this funding meeting, we started slowly to get in contact with each other and talk about what we could do. And afterwards I started taking a lead in organizing the activities and getting to know what our members’ interests are. In 2 years, 2014 and 2015, we actually achieved quite a lot: we started Online Thematic Discussion Sessions, started to organize Congress Sessions for the young professionals - starting from 2014 at the Congress in Sao Paulo where we did a very innovative session different from all the other sessions in the past ISWA Congresses. We hosted an art exhibition and three consecutive panels on topics which were not yet so “hot” like communication and education. Later we started the mentorship program, communication channels on social media and website, and slowly as of 2015 we started to develop local YP groups. That is how we started the YPG.


What is the most memorable business trip you had with ISWA?


Jiao: There is one trip which is deep in my memory. I still have all the pictures in my head. It was in 2014 when we (ISWA) decided to try to develop projects to assist cities in developing their sanitation and waste management practices in developing countries. We started by collaborating with partners especially within CACC (Climate and Clean Air Coalition). At that time, the EPA of the US was doing projects in Addis Ababa (Ethiopia). I was going there together with the project manager to see how they manage the entire process. Even though I had read a lot about dumpsites and seen pictures and read stories, it was still different from confronting the reality by my own eyes. And because of that it was very impactful, I mean, on the emotional level. I remember the first day when I went to the dumpsite, we arrived at the dumpsite: regardless of the smell, hundreds of people were working there, a lot of whom children without shoes. At the entrance of the dumpsite came a truck unloading waste and within it there was a small dog being dumped as if it was waste. There were a lot of dogs running around with red eyes and you know they are not healthy. There were needles everywhere and then you associate this with the children without shoes - it was just such an overwhelming scene for me. I had to turn around and for a while I could not go in. Then the project manager told me:” Jiao, if you want to work on this kind of projects, you need to overcome these emotional reactions and use it as a tool or a base for your work.” This experience, what I saw and how I reacted emotionally, has been a large part of me in doing what I am doing in waste management. And it is a big reason to continue doing it.


What is your leadership style?


Jiao: Hmm, good question. I am not very consciously developing my leadership style. I can only look back to see what has been achieved and how we achieved it. I think I am more of a person who would like to get bottom-up initiatives heard and achieved. I think there are a lot of ideas within our member base and those are the assets of our group. All the activities we developed in the first years when I was leading the group were based on the interests of our members. For example, our members said it would be great to get connected to the senior members of ISWA. That was how the Mentorship program came about. I initially did not have a very clear plan like “I am going to achieve this by year 1 and achieve this by year 2”, but I incrementally increased and improved the quality of our activities by supporting our members, by helping them to realize their ideas and I think it is an excellent value in our group that we are able to do so. Our young professional members are passionate and energetic and are moving things very quickly. Very often I feel that being a leader means to be there to support our members, to give them confidence and advice, and to help them along the way in realizing their ideas and dreams, as long as they are in alignment with the group’s interests.



March 2017: Qadir Huseynov, Azerbajan

Qadir Huseynov, Azerbajan


Qadir joined the group in the end of 2016 after starting his career in the Joint-Stock Company '"Tamiz Shahar", which is the ISWA member. "Tamiz Shahar" JSC is a state organization providing waste disposal services in Baku, the capital city of Azerbaijan. You can read more here on the current projects of the company. Currently, Qadir is Assistant to the Chairman of the Executive Board of Tamiz Shahar" JCS. Qadir sees "Tamiz Shahar" as a regional leader in waste management technology in the CIS and among neighbouring countries and is working on that now. 

Upon the advice of his colleagues Qadir joined several ISWA working groups including the Young Professionals. Within the YPG Qadir is active in the following divisions: Communication, Education and Regional Development. Last month he has launched the regional group in Azerbaijan, which consists of motivated young professionals. Qadir is always searching for the new opportunities to attract public attention to the waste problem. He  made a presentation for Baku State University students, where he was a visiting lecturer and for Ecology Club of Azerbaijan Architecture and Construction University.  


Qadir has also contributed to the #WAWSeries of ISWA YPG and shared his experience of working in a public waste management company during one of the Online Discussion Meetings. His advice to the new ISWA YPG members: Let's act together, locally and globally. Do not wait for the special occasion, be the first to come up with initiative for your regional group and lead the change! 

February 2017: Kat Heinrich, Australia

Kat Heinrich, Australia

This year starts with the presentation of Kat Heinrich, the Chair of the ISWA Young Professionals. Last week you may have meet her in Europe. She was invited for ISWA Coordination Workshop in Vienna, and presented at the Waste In Progress forum in Girona (Spain).


6 years ago, her passion for the environment led Kat to make the decision to move into waste and resource management consulting. Now she is a Senior Consultant in the company Rawtec (Australia) where her focus lies in waste strategy and planning for cities, government and industry. 


Kat started to develop the know-how in waste and resource management by undertaking waste and recycling improvement reviews and audits for businesses. Since this time she has worked on many key projects for the State such as annual waste reporting, infrastructure planning, and disaster waste management planning. She enhances her expertise and follows her passion for improving waste management in emerging/developing countries through extra learning courses, such as the one from EAWAG. 


Kat’s way to ISWA YPG started in Brazil at the congress in Sao Paolo. She is responsible for Communication for the YPG. Her team player spirit and proactive nature led Kat to become the Vice-Chair in November 2015, and Chair since November 2016.


Kat has an ambitious plan for the time being the Chair. She wants to build stronger relationships and partnerships between the YPG and other groups, such as ISWA Working Groups and SWANA. Moreover, she is working with the leadership team to improve the experience of welcoming new members and create more opportunities for communication and collaboration across our group. The group has already started to work on these goals and is underway for another exciting year!

November 2016: Gijs Langeveld, Netherlands

November has passed so fast that the new edition of YPG of the month was not ready before the 30th. But nevertheless, the series goes on. YPG of November is Gijs Langeveld, successful entrepreneur, the chair of ISWA YPG in 2016, the leader of the Alumni working group and proud father of a sweet daughter.


In this edition of YPG of the month, Gijs shares his experience of being self-employed, and he gives tips for networking and successful presentations.


Benefits of being self-employed in the field of Waste Management, according to Gijs:

  • Having the nicest boss in this world….
  • Having diverse tasks depending on the project.
  • Enjoying the risk and getting maximum out of yourself.
  • Working with diverse aspects: environmental, technical, economic and health issues.
  • Satisfaction from work: Gijs’ profit is simultaneously profitable for the environment.

Networking tips from Gijs:

  • Do internship. Invest time in making connections.
  • Use the network you have, do not hesitate to say what you want and ask.
  • Help your contacts as well. What you give is what you get.


Tips on successful presentations:

  • A good presentation even with improvisation starts with a good preparation.
  • Get your audience involved, for example with asking a question, emotionally commitments.
  • Copy and improve the presentation style of those who are good at it. (Remember, how Ana Loureiro made made us clap at the opening session of ISWA Congress 2016).
  • Your audience will remember 1, max 2 main messages of the whole presentation. So keep it simple.
  • Build in your personal experience in the presentation. For example, telling a story is a great way to keep the audience focused.
  • Put a minimum of text on the slide. Better no words.
  • Prepare your presentation on small cards which you can hold in your hands, where you could look up the key words