Recycling and Reclamation Workers
Overview | Specific
Work Activities | Common Work Activities | Related
Occupations | Skills and Abilities | Working
Conditions | Physical Demands | Knowledge
| Interests | Wages | Current
Employment | Outlook | Helpful High School Courses | Preparation
| Related Educational Programs | Hiring Practices
| Licensing/Certification/Designation/Registration |
Advancement Opportunities | Additional
Sources of Information
- Collect, sort, and reclaim a variety of materials
- Operate shredders, balers, and processing equipment
- Usually have a high school degree
- May need a commercial driver's license
- Often work outdoors
- Earn $23,280 per year (national median
Recycling and reclamation workers prepare and sort materials for recycling.
Recycling workers and reclamation workers have related, but different jobs. Recycling workers sort and process materials such as glass, plastic, and paper. They generally work with items that are made of just one material, like glass bottles. Reclamation workers process items made of many materials, such as cars and refrigerators. They reduce the items to their basic parts--plastic, copper, steel, glass, and so on.
Some recycling workers gather items for recycling. They drive recycling collection trucks and pick up materials from curbsides. They place items in the proper bins in the trucks. In areas with commingled recycling, workers do not have to sort the items. Other recycling workers collect materials at buy-back and drop-off centers. They direct customers to unloading areas and help them unload and sort materials. The sorted materials are sent to processing centers.Workers may clean the unloading area and move containers.
At processing centers, recycling workers sort materials such as concrete, glass, paper, drywall, plastics, metal, and wood. They clean the materials, if needed. At some facilities, workers sort items by hand. They place the sorted materials in containers or drop them down chutes. At other facilities, workers operate machines that sort items. For example, they use magnets to pull out specific metals. Some facilities sort recyclable materials from garbage. At these facilities, workers use machines or manually remove recyclable materials from the waste.
Reclamation workers work at salvage yards and recycling plants. They use special machinery to extract chemicals from air conditioners and refrigerators. After the chemicals are removed, they use tools such as blow torches and saws to cut up appliances and cars. They may feed appliances into a shredder to reclaim steel or other metals.
E-waste includes computers and other electronics. These contain metals such as chromium and lead. Workers remove these materials and sort them with other high grade metals like copper, brass, and aluminum. They label and sort parts and place them into containers.
Reclamation workers keep records of the recycled materials and waste chemicals they remove from products. They also follow strict rules when disposing hazardous wastes.
After recyclable materials are sorted and cleaned, workers process them for transport. They use grinders and chippers to break down the materials. Then they compress materials into bundles or bales. Workers also use forklifts and pallet jacks to load bundles and bales onto trucks for shipping.
The recycling equipment and trucks require maintenance. Workers keep records of the maintenance they perform on their heavy machines and trucks. They also keep records of the materials they receive, process, and ship.
The following list of occupational tasks is specific to electronics
- Test and use engineering designs to make electronic devices, systems, and microchips.
- Test and implement digital signal processing, network analysis, and computer engineering.
- Manage putting together and use of electronic equipment and systems.
- Test machine and process control requirements. Create device and controller specifications to work in different environments.
- Supervise the building and testing of new technology. This includes solar power equipment such as inverters or power management systems.
- Check new equipment to adjust or fix problems.
- Match software and hardware so they work together.
- Use design software to make drawings of controls, instruments, sensors, and networks.
- Fix equipment using hand tools and precision instruments.
- Choose the correct equipment, components, and systems for projects.
- Test systems to increase energy efficiency. Use new power sources and systems.
- Set up and operate test equipment to diagnose, test, and check how well it works. This includes smaller components and whole systems.
Recycling and reclamation workers perform the following list of tasks, but the
tasks are common to many occupations.
- Communicate with supervisors, peers, or subordinates.
- Control machines and processes.
- Handle and move objects.
- Inspect equipment, structures, or materials.
- Get information needed to do the job.
- Operate vehicles or mechanized equipment.
- Monitor events, materials, and surroundings.
- Perform activities that use the whole body.
- Teach others.
- Identify objects, actions, and events.
- Coordinate the work and activities of others.
- Judge the value of objects, services, or people.
- Organize, plan, and prioritize work.
- Make decisions and solve problems.
- Develop and build teams.
- Coach others.
- Process information.
- Schedule work and activities.
- Guide, direct, and motivate others.
- Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources
Hawaii Career Pathways:
Recycling and reclamation workers need to:
- Express ideas clearly when speaking or writing.
- Listen to others, understand, and ask questions.
Reason and Problem Solve
- Develop rules or follow guidelines when arranging
items in a certain order.
- Concentrate and not be distracted while performing
- Notice when something is wrong or is likely
to go wrong.
Manage Oneself, People, Time, and Things
- Check how well one is learning or doing something.
Work with Things
- Operate and control equipment.
- Watch gauges, dials, and output to make sure a machine is working properly.
Perceive and Visualize
- Identify a pattern (a figure, object, word, or sound) that is hidden in distracting material.
- Quickly and accurately compare letters, numbers, objects, pictures, or patterns.
In a typical work setting,recycling and reclamation workers:
- Have a medium level of interaction with others.
- Are responsible for the health and safety of others.
- Are somewhat responsible for the work done by other workers.
- Sometimes work as part of a team.
- Mostly communicate via face-to-face discussions.
Physical Work Conditions
- Always wear protective and safety gear.
- Are regularly exposed to contaminants.
- Work outdoors. May spend time indoors, especially recycling workers.
- Are often exposed to very hot and very cold temperatures, depending on the weather.
- Sometimes are exposed to loud or distracting sounds and noise levels.
- Sometimes work in very bright or dim lighting conditions.
- Occasionally are exposed to hazardous equipment.
- Travel around the work site in a variety of equipment, such as tractors and trucks.
- May work physically near other workers.
- Must be somewhat exact when performing the job.
- Sometimes must match the pace of work with the speed of equipment.
- Sometimes repeat the same physical tasks.
- Usually set their daily tasks and priorities with input from a supervisor.
- Must meet weekly and monthly deadlines.
Hours / Travel
- Usually work 40 hours a week.
- Usually work a set schedule.
Recycling and reclamation workers frequently:
- Stand for long periods of time.
- Use their hands to handle, control, or feel objects, tools, or controls.
- Repeat the same movements.
- Bend or twist their body.
It is important for recycling and reclamation workers to be able to:
- Use fingers or hands to grasp, move, or assemble very small objects.
- Make quick, precise adjustments to machine controls.
- Hold the arm and hand in one position or hold the hand steady while moving the arm.
- Move two or more limbs together (for example, two arms, two legs, or one leg and one arm) while remaining in place.
- See details of objects whether they are nearby or far away.
- Use stomach and lower back muscles to support the body for long periods without getting tired.
- Adjust body movements or equipment controls to keep pace with speed changes of moving objects.
- React quickly using hands, fingers, or feet.
- Move arms and legs quickly.
- Determine the distance between objects.
It is not as important, but still necessary, forrecycling and reclamation workers to be able to:
- See differences between colors, shades, and brightness.
- Understand the speech of another person.
- Choose quickly and correctly among various movements when responding to different signals.
- Use muscles to lift, push, pull, or carry heavy objects.
- Speak clearly so listeners can understand.
- Be physically active and use muscles for long periods without getting tired or out of breath.
- Make fast, repeated movements of fingers, hands, and wrists.
- Bend, stretch, twist, or reach out.
- Coordinate movement of several parts of the body, such as arms and legs, while the body is moving.
- Focus on one source of sound and ignore others.
- Hear sounds and recognize the difference between them.
- While looking forward, see objects or movements that are off to the side.
- Keep or regain the body's balance or stay upright when in an unstable position.
- See objects in very low or very bright light.
Recycling and reclamation workers need knowledge in the following areas:
- Production and Processing: Knowledge of how products are made and supplied.
- Mechanical: Knowledge of designing, using, and repairing machines and tools.
- Administration and Management: Knowledge of managing the operations of a business, company, or group.
- Public Safety and Security: Knowledge of protecting people, data, and property.
- Education and Training: Knowledge of teaching and the methods involved in learning and instruction.
- Customer and Personal Service: Knowledge of providing special services to customers based on their needs.
- English Language: Knowledge of the meaning, spelling, and use of the English language.
- Personnel and Human Resources: Knowledge of the department that is in charge of the relationship between a company and its employees. In particular, includes knowledge of the activities performed by the department.
Recycling and reclamation workers are people who tend to:
- Consider support from their employer important. They like to be treated fairly and have supervisors who will back them up. They prefer jobs where they are trained well.
- Consider relationships important. They like to work in a friendly, non-competitive environment. They like to do things for other people. They prefer jobs where they are not pressured to do things that go against their sense of right and wrong.
- Have realistic interests. They like work activities that include practical, hands-on problems and solutions. They like to work with plants, animals, and physical materials such as wood, tools, and machinery. They often prefer to work outside.
- Have conventional interests. They like work activities that follow set procedures, routines, and standards. They like to work with data and detail. They prefer working where there is a clear line of authority to follow.
Wage information is not available specifically for recycling and reclamation workers. However, they are part of the larger group of "production workers, all other."
Wages vary by area of the country and the worker's duties.
Full-time recycling and reclamation workers usually receive benefits. Typical benefits include paid vacation, health insurance, and sick leave. Some employers also offer a retirement plan.
Production Workers, All Other
As the population grows, more waste will be created. Some of this will be recycled and some will be trash. Workers will be needed to gather, sort, and process these materials. In addition, increased awareness of the environment will spur demand as more workers will be needed to properly dispose of hazardous wastes.
You should take a general high school curriculum that meets our state's graduation requirements. Click here for public school graduation requirements for the Class of 2014 and 2015. Click here for the graduation requirements for the Class of 2016 and beyond. You will be required to take both math and science classes to graduate.
If you attend a private school, check with your school counselor for graduation
Helpful electives to take in high school that prepare you for this
- Diesel Mechanics and Repair
- Driver Education
- Introduction to Mechanics
- Physical Education
The courses listed above
are meant to help you create your high school plan. If you have not already
done so, talk to a school counselor or parent about the courses you are considering
You should also check with
a teacher or counselor to see if work-based learning opportunities are available
in your school and community. These might include field trips, job shadowing,
internships, and actual work experience. The goal of these activities is to
help you connect your school experiences with real-life work.
Join some groups, try some
hobbies, or volunteer with an organization that interests you. By participating
in activities you can have fun, make new friends, and learn about yourself.
Maybe one of them will help direct you to a future career. Click here for examples
and groups that may be available in your high school or community.
To work as a recycling and reclamation worker, you must:
- be physically fit; and
- be at least 18 years old.
Recycling workers who drive heavy trucks need a commercial driver's license. Some states require you to complete a basic truck-driving training program. These programs usually take a few months to complete.
Recycling and reclamation workers receive much of their training on the job. You usually work with an experienced worker who teaches you the job. You also receive training on safety regulations and how to identify certain grades of metal. Reclamation workers receive training on how to identify and remove materials from products that require special handling. Training usually lasts a few months up to a year.
- Heavy/Industrial Equipment Maintenance Technologies
Some employers require recycling and reclamation workers to have a high school diploma or GED. Most employers require recycling and reclamation workers to be at least 18 years old and physically fit. They also require drivers to have a clean driving record.
Employers look for recycling and reclamation workers who are dependable and hardworking.
Licensing / Certification
/ Designation / Registration
Recycling workers who drive recycling trucks must have a commercial driver's license (CDL). Requirements for the CDL vary by state.
Reclamation workers must have a technician certification. This can be earned by completing a program approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and passing an exam.
For more information on certification, go to:
Recycling and reclamation jobs are entry-level jobs. Experience and good performance usually result in higher pay or supervisory positions.
Sources of Information
- "Encyclopedia of Careers and Vocational Guidance" ($249.95 ($224.95 for libraries); Vol. 5, p. 262)
Publication Date: Fifteenth Edition, 2010
J.G. Ferguson Publishing Company
- "Green Careers: Choosing Work for a Sustainable Future" ($19.95 paper cover; p. 133)
by Jim Cassio and Alice Rush, ISBN:0865716439
Publication Date: 2009
New Society Publishers
© Copyright Hawaii Green Jobs Initiative,
LMI Innovation Grant, Research and Statistics Office, Department of Labor &
Industrial Relations, State of Hawaii. All Rights Reserved.