Recycling worker

Recycling workers


Recycling workers clean materials and remove waste, and ensure the waste and collected materials are sorted in the appropriate recycling containers. They also dismantle vehicles and sort the parts collected, and deposit recyclable materials onto conveyor belts where they can be further sorted.

Recycling workers typically do the following:

  • Empty recycling boxes and wheelie bins into the collection vehicle
  • Put the boxes and bins back and make sure nothing has been left behind
  • Check that the right kind of materials have been put out for recycling
  • Sort recyclables at the kerbside
  • Use machinery to help you lift and sort items at the waste collection site and the recycling site
  • Work on the conveyor belt at a waste plant, sorting waste and removing non-recyclable items
  • Inspect materials for any contamination
  • Speak to members of the public about recycling schemes
  • Clean and maintain equipment

Working conditions

Recycling workers work indoors or outdoors in recycling centers. They are regularly exposed to contaminants and hazardous equipment. For that reason, they always wear protective and safety gear.

Recycling workers usually work full time on a set schedule.

Other titles

The following job titles also refer to recycling worker:

household waste reclamation worker
vehicle breaker
waste recycling site operative
recycling site worker
household waste recycling site worker
recycling operative
recycling site operative
reclamation worker
waste reclamation worker
car breaker
vehicle dismantler
car dissasembler
waste recycling site worker
commercial waste reclamation worker
household waste recycling site operative

Minimum qualifications

No formal educational credential is generally required to work as recycling worker.

ISCO skill level

ISCO skill level is defined as a function of the complexity and range of tasks and duties to be performed in an occupation. It is measured on a scale from 1 to 4, with 1 the lowest level and 4 the highest, by considering:

  • the nature of the work performed in an occupation in relation to the characteristic tasks and duties
  • the level of formal education required for competent performance of the tasks and duties involved and
  • the amount of informal on-the-job training and/or previous experience in a related occupation required for competent performance of these tasks and duties.

Recycling worker is a Skill level 1 occupation.

Recycling worker career path

Similar occupations

These occupations, although different, require a lot of knowledge and skills similar to recycling worker.

sorter labourer
refuse collector
advertising installer
sewerage cleaner
kitchen porter

Long term prospects

These occupations require some skills and knowledge of recycling worker. They also require other skills and knowledge, but at a higher ISCO skill level, meaning these occupations are accessible from a position of recycling worker with a significant experience and/or extensive training.

asbestos abatement worker
refuse vehicle driver
building exterior cleaner
decontamination worker
emergency response worker

Essential knowledge and skills

Essential knowledge

This knowledge should be acquired through learning to fulfill the role of recycling worker.

  • Health, safety and hygiene legislation: The set of health, safety and hygiene standards and items of legislation applicable in a specific sector.
  • Waste management: The methods, materials and regulations used to collect, transport, treat and dispose of waste. This includes recycling and monitoring of waste disposal.
  • Waste and scrap products: The offered waste and scrap products, their functionalities, properties and legal and regulatory requirements.

Essential skills and competences

These skills are necessary for the role of recycling worker.

  • Assess waste type: Identify waste materials during collection and sorting operations in order to assess whether they need to be recycled, disposed of, or otherwise be treated.
  • Operate recycling processing equipment: Operate recycling processing equipment such as granulators, crushers and balers; process and sort materials to be recycled.
  • Ensure compliance with waste legislative regulations: Implement and monitor company procedures for the collection, transport and disposal of waste, in compliance with all regulations and legal requirements.
  • Troubleshoot: Identify operating problems, decide what to do about it and report accordingly.
  • Use personal protection equipment: Make use of protection equipment according to training, instruction and manuals. Inspect the equipment and use it consistently.
  • Handle chemical cleaning agents: Ensure proper handling, storage and disposal of cleaning chemicals in accordance with regulations.
  • Dispose waste: Dispose waste in accordance with legislation, thereby respecting environmental and company responsibilities.
  • Dismantle broken appliances: Dismantle equipment and appliances which are broken and ineligible for repair so that their separate components can be sorted, recycled, and disposed of in a manner which is compliant with waste and recycling legislation.
  • Manage waste: Manage or dispose of significant amounts of waste materials or hazardous materials. Ensure required licenses and permits are in place and reasonable management practices, industry standards, or commonly accepted farming practices followed.
  • Collect broken appliances: Collect or receive products which are no longer functional and cannot be repaired from households, organisations or collection facilities so that they can be sorted for disposal or recycling.

Optional knowledge and skills

Optional knowledge

This knowledge is sometimes, but not always, required for the role of recycling worker. However, mastering this knowledge allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

  • Electronics principles: The study of electric energy, more specifically electron, control and its prominent principles regarding integrated circuits and electrical systems.
  • Pollution prevention: The processes used to prevent pollution: precautions to pollution of the environment, procedures to counter pollution and associated equipment, and possible measures to protect the environment.
  • Electricity: Understand the principles of electricity and electrical power circuits, as well as the associated risks.
  • Hazardous waste storage: The regulations and procedures surrounding the safekeeping of materials and substances which pose health and safety risks.

Optional skills and competences

These skills and competences are sometimes, but not always, required for the role of recycling worker. However, mastering these skills and competences allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

  • Maintain sorting equipment: Perform routine maintenance as well as minor repairs on the equipment used for sorting waste and recyclable materials.
  • Perform laboratory tests: Carry out tests in a laboratory to produce reliable and precise data to support scientific research and product testing.
  • Sort waste: Manually or automatically sort waste by separating it into its different elements.
  • Operate forklift: Operate a forklift, a vehicle with a pronged device in front for lifting and carrying heavy loads.
  • Educate on recycling regulations: Educate organisations and individuals on the correct procedures and legislation concerning the recycling of different types of waste in different types of containers, waste collection procedures, and on the sanctions following non-compliance to legislation.
  • Assess contamination: Analyse evidence of contamination. Advise on how to decontaminate.
  • Dispose of hazardous waste: Dispose of dangerous materials such as chemical or radioactive substances according to environmental and to health and safety regulations.
  • Maintain recycling records: Maintain records and process facts and figures about type and volume of different recycling operations.
  • Dispose of non-hazardous waste: Dispose of waste materials which pose no risk to health and safety in a manner which complies with recycling and waste management procedures.
  • Avoid contamination: Avoid the mixing or contamination of materials.
  • Drain hazardous liquids: Drain substances which pose health and safety risks from equipment, appliances or installations in order to store the liquids according to safety guidelines and dispose or treat them as required.
  • Monitor composting: Mix the biodegradable materials respecting the appropriate proportion and monitor the degradation process of organic waste.
  • Install recycling containers: Take care of the installation of containers for recyclable waste, such as cardboard paper, glass bottles and clothing, in the appropriate places.
  • Remove contaminants: Use chemicals and solvents to remove contaminants from products or surfaces.
  • Follow recycling collection schedules: Follow and apply waste collection schedules, handed out by the organisations who collect and process the materials for recycling, in order to optimise efficiency and service.
  • Report pollution incidents: When an incident causes pollution, examine the extent of the damage and what the consequences could be and report it relevant institution following pollution reporting procedures.
  • Control delivered waste: Carry out receiving controls identifying, inspecting and declaring the delivered waste.
  • Advise on waste management procedures: Advise organisations on the implementation of waste regulations and on improvement strategies for waste management and waste minimisation, to increase environmentally sustainable practices and environmental awareness.

ISCO group and title

9612 – Refuse sorters

  1. ESCO
  2. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
  3. Recycling operative – My World of Work
  4. Recycling and Reclamation Workers – Working Conditions – IllinoisWorkNet
  5. Featured image: By USEPA Environmental-Protection-Agency – Municipal recycling facilities, Montgomery County, MD. 2007, Credit USEPA, Public Domain
Last updated on June 22, 2022

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