If you work in the waste industry, it’s very likely that you know the name Jo Gallacher, as she is one of the most prolific and capable writers on the scene.
There are not many waste or environmental industry-specific writers, and I really do count myself among a small club, but within that club, Jo must certainly be one of the most well-known and well respected.
As Editor of Recycling & Waste World, she is one of several vital voices for this industry and holds the huge responsibility of communicating change. If you’re a subscriber of their e-bulletin newsletter (which I highly recommend you should be), you’ll know that the content is some of the industry’s finest.
I’m really pleased to welcome Jo Gallacher, a writer and editor who shares my enthusiasm for communicating this industry.
Welcome, Jo. Can you tell me a bit about your life and professional background, and how they converged to put you in this position?
I’ve always had a passion for writing and reporting and knew from a young age I wanted to become a journalist. I’m not particularly money-orientated (it’s a good job, given a journalist’s salary) so could never picture myself working just to earn a living. I have always wanted a job which can contribute positively to society as well as pay the bills, and editing Recycling & Waste World (RWW) allows me to do this and much more.
Have you always been interested in waste, recycling, and everything in between?
One of my earliest memories is my grandad telling me to always stuff my pockets with my sweet wrappers (which he sneakily gave me out of sight of my mum) rather than throwing them on the floor. I’ve been brought up with an appreciation for our planet.
However, like many in the resource industry, it was a happy accident that I became involved with waste and recycling, given I was working as a reporter on a completely different magazine when I was offered the job. I am constantly learning about the new legislation, technology and innovation which will shape all of our lives for years to come, it feels like an exciting place to be.
We both have a degree in Journalism from a Northern university, and we’re both called Jo (although I prefer Joseph). I’m sure the similarities don’t stop there. However, I’m sure being the Editor for RWW is vastly different to my day-to-day, can you walk me through what you get up to?
I’m beginning to think I have a natural affinity with Joes- my partner is called Joe, as well as a handful of friends, so it’s a great source of happiness for me when I meet another one.
My alarm goes off at 4.30am and do pilates and yoga for two hours…kidding! God, I hate those articles about successful routines, why do they always have to wake up so early?
My day is split between writing daily news stories and features, editing copy and layout for the magazine, planning for the next issue and answering emails. A lot of emails. You have to be very organised to do this job and my desk is usually a flurry of notepads and sticky notes.
You scared me for a moment with the yoga joke! Well, I’ve been working in this industry for four and a half years now, and I’ve seen massive changes. So many recycling plants have shut (or burned) down. The China plastics changes a few years ago, and at the start of this year have caused so much damage. Oil prices still hold recycling prices at their mercy. What recurring themes do you see, and do you think you can make predictions based on your editorial knowledge?
The word on everybody’s lips is, of course, plastics- how can we eradicate single-use, how can we prevent them from polluting our oceans, what alternatives are out there? It’s a huge topic and doesn’t show any sign of slowing down any time soon.
I predict the biggest theme over the next few months will be Extended Producer Responsibility. For too long, manufacturers have sidestepped their responsibility to pay their fair share for the collection, transportation, recycling and disposing of products at end of life. It’s time every section of the value chain played their part.
Renewables are another huge and vital topic- how can we change the narrative so waste is valued as a resource? At what cost will this be to the taxpayer, our environment and businesses? All questions I am attempting to explore within RWW’s pages.
I completely support Extended Producer Responsibility! I have my own recipe for what I think makes good content for this industry. Can you tell me what you try to include in articles in order to create mass or industry appeal?
RWW covers a broad range of topics to enable our readers to gain a wide insight into what’s going on in the industry. We focus on the novel and innovative, often profiling exciting technology developments or traditional subjects from a new angle.
I am conscious some of the subjects we approach can be quite dry and technical, so I welcome humour and wit to keep our readers interested and entertained. I also love a good pun, as our readers can probably tell.
I’m always conscious of stepping on toes. I don’t want to badmouth landfills, because I know landfill owners. I don’t want to criticise DMR bins too much for one client, because another might still offer them. I have to be very careful. What are your biggest challenges working in communications in the waste and recycling industry?
Like any respected news organisation, impartiality is really important to us. I receive a number of press releases a day and companies can get upset when I haven’t prioritised their latest news. Our readers want good quality, digestible news stories and they won’t get this if I write up every press release which comes into my inbox. Criticising an organisation that you work closely with can also be challenging. but is absolutely necessary.
You’ve been in this role since the summer of 2017, how are you finding it, and do you see yourself staying in the waste-sphere for years to come?
I am loving watching RWW’s presence grow online while retaining its high-quality print product. I feel very proud of where the magazine is heading and intend to keep pushing it in the right direction.
Before I started working for a plastic recycler back in 2014, I had no idea about ocean plastics. In the years since it has become mainstream knowledge. I’m glad I’ve played my part in communicating that. What, for you, has been the biggest eye-opener? And is there any particular topic you feel extra-purposeful writing about?
Buying cheap clothing has never been easier, I could order something I’ve seen on Instagram using ApplePay and it could be here tomorrow without ever having to reach for my purse. Great! Or so I thought until I read more about the damaging costs of fast fashion.
We send messages to others via the things we buy and our society is largely driven by consumerism. But at what cost? Although more attention is being given to the life cycle of our clothes, a lot of improvements still need to be made by manufacturers, retailers and consumers to make more ethical, environmentally-friendly choices.
I realise that growing inequality in the UK means many have no choice but to buy cheap poor-quality clothing, but I do think we have to work harder to convince people that a new season doesn’t necessarily mean a new wardrobe.
The resource industry can certainly play its part in creating more closed-loop solutions for textiles and I look forward to pushing the message forward over the next few months.
The answer, I guess, is to ask more questions about our habits, especially purchasing. So, RWW is both online and in print. During my journalism degree, I saw the phone-hacking scandal shut down NOTW, I saw countless magazines go digital-only, and we had constant reminders from lecturers that print was a dying art. What’s your experience of writing for print? Do you think it will ever go away?
This is a question I get a lot and my initial reaction is to vehemently deny print is in danger. Creating an economically viable printed magazine does have its challenges, yet the format continues to be extremely popular across the sector, particularly for B2B magazines.
I’m definitely in favour of increasing our digital channels and openly embrace digital’s relationship with the printed product. But for me and many of our readers, thumbing through a magazine is such a pure joy, not even the most impressive algorithm could replace it.
I know a lot of people working in this industry start recycling more at home, reducing their meat consumption, and begin cycling to work. Is there anything you’ve learned about from your work that you take home with you?
I have done all of these things since working for RWW. When you write about the harm humans are doing to our planet on a daily basis, it’s only a matter of time before it creates positive behaviour changes outside of office hours. I have always hated food waste but now I know understand more the scale of the problem, I’ve developed a very judgemental attitude to the bags of wilting spinach my boyfriend leaves at the back of the fridge.
Thank you very much, Jo, is there anything else you’d like to add?
If you have any questions, comments, or things you think RWW should be shouting about, I’d love to hear from you.
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