Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Green Job Series: Careers in Recycling—Drivers

Getting recyclables from waste bins to manufacturers requires different types of workers. Drivers collect the recyclables and transport them to a MRF, at which sorters, plant managers, and technicians and mechanics work. Skilled personnel in support roles, such as sales and logistics, are also essential to the recycling industry. Larger recycling firms also employ workers in many other occupations, including management and human resources, but these occupations are not covered in this report. This installment of The Daily Leap's green job series describes the job of a driver.


Recycling companies or local governments offering home pickup services employ drivers, also called recyclable material collectors, to pick up and transport recyclables to a Materials Recovery Facility (MRF).

Job Duties

Several drivers usually work together as a team to collect recyclables. One drives the truck, stopping alongside each recycling bin, while the other workers ride inside the cabin or hold onto the side of the truck. At each stop, at least one worker exits the vehicle, grabs the curbside recycling bin, and empties it into the bed of the truck. When the truck finishes its assigned route, the workers return to the MRF where the recyclables are unloaded.

Depending on the type of truck used, workers might have to lift and empty the recyclables from the bin themselves. Other vehicles have hydraulic lifting mechanisms—in either the rear or front of the truck—that can be used to empty the bins automatically. To protect themselves from accidents around the trucks and lift systems, drivers follow detailed safety procedures.

Drivers are required to collect recyclables year-round and in all weather conditions. And, in order to pick up recyclables along long routes, some workers begin shifts as early as 5 or 6 a.m.

Recycling companies that offer services to construction firms pick up recyclable materials from construction sites. Because of the high volume and large size of construction waste, these workers might drive roll-off trucks, which can haul the large dumpsters used on construction sites back to special construction and demolition debris facilities.

Drivers are responsible for inspecting their vehicles at both the beginning and end of every workday. They inspect the tire pressure, fluid levels, safety equipment, and all gauges and controls.

Education and Training

Drivers should have at least a high school education or a G.E.D. To be certified to handle large recycling trucks, drivers must have a Class A or B Commercial Driver's License with airbrake endorsement. Recycling companies prefer drivers who have several years of experience with large commercial trucks.

Drivers need to pass drug screening and background checks. They should have clean driving records. Drivers must also be physically capable of lifting, pushing, and pulling full recycling bins repeatedly throughout the day.


The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics BLS does not have data specifically for drivers of recycling trucks; however, these workers are included in the occupation refuse and recyclable material collectors. The median annual wage for refuse and recyclable material collectors in the remediation and other waste management services industry group was $29,610 in May 2010. The wage is the median annual wage for the entire United States. Wages vary by employer and location.

For more detailed information on drivers in the recycling industry, follow the Occupational Outlook Handbook link.

Tomorrow’s recycling industry series installment: Sorters

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