Recycling and Reclamation Worker

Auto Dismantler, Bobcat Driver/Labor, Box Sorter, Computer Recycling Worker   More Names
Convenience Recycle Center Tech, Crane Operator, Deconstruction and Decontamination Operator, Deconstruction and Decontamination Waste Operations Specialist, Dispatch, Machine Runner, Equipment Operator, Forklift Driver (Team Lead Driver) Recycling and Waste Dock, Forklift-Picker, Household Hazardous Waste Recycling Worker, Machine Operator, Non-Ferrous Material Handler, Operator (Specialist), Pallet Sorter, Picker and Sorter, Load and Unload, Reclamation Worker, Recovery Assistant, Recyclable Materials Sorter, Recycler, Forklift Driver, Truck Driver, Recycling Assistant, Recycling Sorter, Recycling Tech, Recycling Technician, Recycling Worker, Refuse and Recycling Worker, Refuse Laborer, Scrap Metal Processing Worker, Shredding Specialist, Sort Line, Sort Line Worker, Sorter, Transfer Operator, Transfer Station Operator, Waste Management Recycling Technician, White Goods Appliance Tech, Yard Assistant
A Day In The Life

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. These machines need regular cleaning and repair. 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.


Career Snapshot

Typical Education:

High School or GED (HS)
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Percent Job Growth:

3% - Little or no change
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Typical Wages:

Annual: $22,150 - $38,930

Hourly: $11 - $19