Refuse collector

Refuse collectors at work


Refuse collectors remove waste from homes and other facilities and put it in the bin lorry so it can be transported to a treatment and disposal facility. They assist the driver of the bin lorry, help unload the waste, and record the amount of refuse collected. They may also collect waste from construction and demolition sites, and hazardous waste.

A refuse collector typically does the following:

  • Move bags, wheelie bins and recycling bins and boxes
  • Use a lifting mechanism to tip the waste from bins into the lorry
  • Throw plastic bags into the back of the lorry
  • Crush the waste
  • Sort recyclable materials at the kerbside
  • Guide the driver safely around the streets
  • Report any problems with waste collections
  • Help to unload the waste at designated facilities
  • Record the amount of waste collected

Working conditions

Refuse collectors are outdoors most of the day, lifting heavy containers, driving trucks, and operating heavy equipment, which can be stressful to the body. Although the work can be physically demanding and dangerous, safety procedures have decreased the risk of accident or injury.

Refuse collectors usually are on the job forty hours a week, although overtime may be required.

Other titles

The following job titles also refer to refuse collector:

household refuse collector
household waste collector
dustbin man
refuse sorter
recycling operator
refuse collection operative
refuse collection worker
domestic refuse collector
office waste collector
garbage and recycling collector
demolition site refuse collection worker
industrial waste collector
commercial waste collector
kerbside collector
hazardous waste collector
waste collector
domestic waste collector

Minimum qualifications

No formal educational credential is required to work as a refuse collector. However, employers prefer candidates with a high school diploma or a vocational school education. In most locations, a commercial driver’s license is required to operate and drive a garbage truck.

Physical fitness and stamina are essential, since a refuse collector will be required to carry heavy trash cans, bins, and also dismount and mount garbage trucks occasional, which require a good physical condition.

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.

Refuse collector is a Skill level 1 occupation.

Refuse collector career path

Similar occupations

These occupations, although different, require a lot of knowledge and skills similar to refuse collector.

sorter labourer
recycling worker
sewerage cleaner
advertising installer
street sweeper

Long term prospects

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

refuse vehicle driver
asbestos abatement worker
building exterior cleaner
emergency response worker
septic tank servicer

Essential knowledge and skills

Essential knowledge

This knowledge should be acquired through learning to fulfill the role of refuse collector.

  • 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 refuse collector.

  • 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.
  • Collect industrial waste: Collect non-hazardous or hazardous waste which is produced by industrial activities, such as paints, chemicals, industrial byproducts, and radioactive waste.
  • 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.
  • Maintain waste collection records: Maintain records on waste collection routes, scheduling, and types and volume of waste collected.
  • Maintain refuse collection equipment: Identify and repair minor damage to refuse collection equipment as well as perform routine maintenance tasks.
  • Collect domestic waste: Collect non-hazardous waste from residential areas and homes in order to remove it from the area and transport it to a waste treatment and disposal facility.

Optional knowledge and skills

Optional knowledge

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

  • Waste transport legislation: Regulations and legislation concerning the safe transportation of hazardous and non-hazardous waste materials, products, and appliances.
  • 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.
  • 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 refuse collector. However, mastering these skills and competences allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

  • Sort waste: Manually or automatically sort waste by separating it into its different elements.
  • Empty community waste collection bins: Empty containers placed on public sites used for the disposal of non-hazardous waste and to transport the waste to waste treatment and disposal facilities.
  • Monitor civic amenity sites: Monitor sites and facilities which contain recycling points and in which individuals can dispose of domestic waste, in order to ensure safety, compliance with legislation, and that the public uses the facilities in compliance with waste regulations.
  • Operate recycling processing equipment: Operate recycling processing equipment such as granulators, crushers and balers; process and sort materials to be recycled.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Use personal protection equipment
  • Handle chemical cleaning agents: Ensure proper handling, storage and disposal of cleaning chemicals in accordance with regulations.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Identify damage to public space: Monitor the state of public spaces and properties, such as parks, roads, public buildings, and public squares, during work activities in order to identify recent damage and assess the gravity of the damage.

ISCO group and title

9611 – Garbage and recycling collectors

  1. ESCO
  2. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
  3. Refuse Worker Job Description, Career as a Refuse Worker –
  4. Refuse collector | My World of Work
  5. Refuse Collector: Job Description & Requirements – Best Accredited Colleges
  6. Featured image: By Carosaun – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0
Last updated on June 22, 2022

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