Refuse Collectors


Refuse Collectors


Refuse collectors gather garbage and other discarded materials set out by customers along designated routes in urban and rural communities and transport the materials to sanitary landfills or incinerator plants for disposal. Refuse collectors may specialize in collecting certain types of material, such as recyclable glass, newsprint, or aluminum. There are approximately 121,330 refuse and recyclable materials collectors working in the United States.

Quick Facts


Median Salary



Employment Prospects



Minimum Education Level

High School Diploma



On-the-job training



Mechanical/Manual Dexterity


Personality Traits



Earnings of refuse collectors vary widely depending on their employer, union status, and other factors. Beginning refuse collectors who work for small, private firms and are not union members are sometimes paid at hourly wages not far above the federal minimum wage. Median annual earnings of refuse and recyclable materials collectors in May 2019 were $37,840 a year for full-time work, according...

Work Environment

Refuse workers must work outdoors in all kinds of weather, including cold, snow, rain, and heat, and they must handle dirty, smelly objects. The work is active and often strenuous, requiring the lifting of heavy refuse containers, hopping on and off the truck constantly, and operating hoists and other equipment. Workers often encounter garbage that is not packed correctly. Because there is a da...


The U.S. Department of Labor predicts that employment for refuse and recyclable material collectors will grow as fast as average for all careers through 2029 as a result of the growing U.S. population (which is generating more garbage and recyclable materials). As communities encourage more recycling and more resource recovery technologies, more varied pickup services may tend to require more w...