Sorter labourer

A soter labourer


Sorter labourers sort recyclable materials and waste from a recycling stream, and ensure no unsuitable materials wind up among the recyclable materials. They inspect the materials and perform cleaning duties, and work in compliance with waste regulations.

Sorter labourers perform some or all of the following duties:

  • Sort and segregate recoverable materials (e.g., aluminum, plastic, glass, paper, etc.) from incoming waste.
  • Deposit recoverable materials safely and efficiently into appropriate chute.
  • Assist other sorters on an as-needed basis with heavy or bulky items.
  • Follow all company safety policies and procedures, including stopping the conveyor belt in emergency situations.
  • Inspect incoming loads for unacceptable waste; remove unacceptable items as required.
  • Communicate with equipment operators regarding incoming loads of special waste or other loads that require special attention.

Working conditions

Most sorter labourers work full time. Shifts longer than 8 hours are common, and sometimes overtime is available.

Sorter labourers always wear safety equipment, such as safety shoes, glasses, gloves, hearing protection, or hard hats. Due to the nature of the role, they are often exposed to contaminants, as well as a noisy environment.

Other titles

The following job titles also refer to sorter labourer:

  • grader
  • yard labourer
  • recycler
  • recycling site sorter
  • yard operative
  • recycling site labourer
  • sort belt operative
  • textile sorter
  • recycling metal sorter
  • sort line operative
  • recycling site sorter labourer
  • sorter
  • sorter laborer

Minimum qualifications

No formal educational credential is generally required to work as sorter labourer. Employers typically require only that applicants be physically able to perform the work.

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.

Sorter labourer is a Skill level 1 occupation.

Sorter labourer career path

Similar occupations

These occupations, although different, require a lot of knowledge and skills similar to sorter labourer.

recycling worker
refuse collector
advertising installer
sewerage cleaner
kitchen porter

Long term prospects

These occupations require some skills and knowledge of sorter labourer. They also require other skills and knowledge, but at a higher ISCO skill level, meaning these occupations are accessible from a position of sorter labourer 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 sorter labourer.

  • 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 sorter labourer.

  • Sort waste: Manually or automatically sort waste by separating it into its different elements.
  • Communicate with waste collectors: Communicate with workers who collect waste from various places and transport it to the waste treatment facilities in order to ensure optimal cooperation and efficient operation of waste treatment and disposal procedures.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Store sorted waste: Store waste materials, products, and appliances which have been sorted into separate categories for recycling or disposal into the appropriate containers and storage equipment or facilities.

Optional knowledge and skills

Optional knowledge

This knowledge is sometimes, but not always, required for the role of sorter labourer. 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 sorter labourer. 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.
  • 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.
  • Operate forklift: Operate a forklift, a vehicle with a pronged device in front for lifting and carrying heavy loads.
  • 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.
  • Use personal protection equipment: Make use of protection equipment according to training, instruction and manuals. Inspect the equipment and use it consistently.
  • 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.
  • Remove contaminants: Use chemicals and solvents to remove contaminants from products or surfaces.
  • 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.

ISCO group and title

9612 – Refuse sorters

  1. ESCO
  2. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
  3. 53 – 7062.04 – Recycling and Reclamation Workers – O*NET Online
  4. Featured image: By National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) from USA – Recycling lead in a lead-acid battery recovery facility, Public Domain
Last updated on June 8, 2022

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