Recycling and Reclamation Workers
Overview | Related Occupations | Outlook | Helpful High School Courses | Preparation | Related Educational Programs | Licensing/Certification/Designation/Registration | Additional Sources of Information | Back to Green Careers
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.
Some recycling facilities focus on specific types of recyclable materials. For example, some facilities focus on recycling electronic components. Other facilities specialize in handling scrap metal or rare types of plastic.
At processing centers, recycling workers sort materials such as concrete, glass, paper, drywall, plastics, metal, and wood. 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. Workers have to clean the sorted materials.
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 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 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.
Recycling and reclamation workers maintain their recycling equipment and trucks. They keep records of the maintenance they perform. They also keep records of the materials they receive, process, and ship. Some reclamation workers work at salvage yards.
- Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources
Hawaii Career Pathways:
Analysts expect that the fuel cell industry will continue to grow rapidly. This is due to government incentives and increased consumer interest.
Helpful High School Courses
You should take a general high school curriculum that meets our state's graduation requirements. Click here for for public school graduation requirements for students graduating in 2011 or 2012. Click here for public school graduation requirements for students graduating in 2013 or later. If you attend a private school, check with your school counselor for graduation requirements.
Helpful electives to take in high school that prepare you for this occupation include:
- 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 taking.
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 of activities 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.
Education after high school
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.
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:
Additional Sources of Information
Career Information Available on the Internet
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