Recycling and Reclamation Workers


Exploring this Job

Learn more about recycling by reading the answers to "Frequent Questions on Recycling" posted on the Environmental Protection Agency's Web site, Also find helpful information about recycling by reading these publications: Recycling Today ( and Resource Recycling ( Seeing how a recycling facility operates is a great way to learn more about the process. Ask your school's career services office for help with setting up a tour of a local recycling facility. You can also arrange to talk with workers to learn more about their jobs. Many communities have groups that support recycling with fund drives and information campaigns. Also, most municipal public meetings and workshops are good places to learn about how you can help with recycling in your community.

The Job

Recycling and reclamation workers are employed in recycling facilities, where they sort and prepare various products and materials for recycling. They identify and remove substances and materials that may be hazardous. Their work may also entail dismantling parts and components of appliances and other products before they are recycled. They separate materials such as plastics, metals, glass, paper, and wood and put them into the correct containers for recycling. They may also sort construction materials such as drywall, concretes, and plastics into containers.

Recycling workers use specialized machinery to remove chemicals from appliances such as refrigerators and air conditioners. They may also separate metals for recycling, such as aluminum, brass, and copper. Once the materials are sorted and hazardous substances are removed, they place the recyclable objects onto conveyor belts or into chutes. They may operate balers to compress the materials into bales or bundles.

These workers may be assigned to work in recycling yards, working on such tasks as raking and sweeping, collecting loose paper debris, gathering up broken glass, and moving bins and barrels. Some jobs require operating equipment for moving and loading heavy items onto trucks. Recycling and reclamation workers may operate equipment such as forklifts, pallet jacks, power lifts, or front-end loaders. Some workers drive the cargo trucks. Those with mechanical skills and knowledge may clean, inspect, and maintain recycling equipment; they may also perform minor repairs.