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Recycling and Reclamation Worker  What They Do

Just the Facts


Prepares and sorts materials or products for recycling. Identifies and removes hazardous substances. Dismantles components of products such as appliances.

This career is part of the Manufacturing cluster Production/Process Technology pathway.


A person in this career:

  • Sorts materials, such as metals, glass, wood, paper or plastics, into appropriate containers for recycling.
  • Cleans recycling yard by sweeping, raking, picking up broken glass and loose paper debris, or moving barrels and bins.
  • Operates forklifts, pallet jacks, power lifts, or front-end loaders to load bales, bundles, or other heavy items onto trucks for shipping to smelters or other recycled materials processing facilities.
  • Sorts metals to separate high-grade metals, such as copper, brass, and aluminum, for recycling.
  • Cleans, inspects, or lubricates recyclable collection equipment or performs routine maintenance or minor repairs on recycling equipment, such as star gears, finger sorters, destoners, belts, and grinders.
  • Operates shredders to reclaim steel from discarded appliances.
  • Collects and sorts recyclable construction materials, such as concrete, drywall, plastics, or wood, into containers.
  • Extracts chemicals from discarded appliances, such as air conditioners or refrigerators, using specialized machinery, such as refrigerant recovery equipment.
  • Deposits recoverable materials into chutes or places materials on conveyor belts.
  • Operates balers to compress recyclable materials into bundles or bales.

Working Conditions and Physical Demands

People who do this job report that:

  • You would often handle loads up to 20 lbs., sometimes up to 50 lbs. You might do a lot of lifting, carrying, pushing or pulling.
  • Work in this occupation involves bending or twisting your body more than one-third of the time
  • Work in this occupation involves use of protective items such as safety shoes, glasses, gloves, hearing protection, a hard hat, or personal flotation devices
  • Exposure to pollutants, gases, dust, fumes, odors, poor ventilation, etc.
  • Lighting is either extremely bright or inadequate
  • Conditions are very hot (above 90 F) or very cold (under 32 F)
  • Work in this occupation involves using your hands to hold, control, and feel objects more than one-third of the time
  • Exposed to hazardous equipment such as saws, machinery, or vehicular traffic more than once a month
  • Sound and noise levels are loud and distracting
  • Work in this occupation requires being outside most of the time
  • Work in this occupation involves making repetitive motions more than one-third of the time
  • Work in this occupation involves standing more than one-third of the time
  • Work in this occupation involves walking or running more than one-third of the time

Working in this career involves (physical activities):

  • Judging how far away an object is, or which of several objects is closer or farther away
  • Seeing clearly at a distance
  • Seeing clearly up close
  • Using abdominal and lower back muscles repeatedly or over time without tiring

Work Hours and Travel

  • Rotating shift work

Specialty and Similar Careers

Careers that are more detailed or close to this career:

  • Bobcat Driver/Labor --
  • Box Sorter --
  • Convenience Recycle Center Tech --
  • Crane Operator --
  • Deconstruction and Decontamination Waste Operations Specialist --
  • Equipment Operator --
  • Non-Ferrous Material Handler --
  • Sort Line Worker --
  • Sorter --
  • Transfer Station Operator --