Recycling and Reclamation Workers

Prepare and sort materials or products for recycling. Identify and remove hazardous substances. Dismantle components of products such as appliances.

Sample of reported job titles: Bobcat Driver, Box Sorter, Convenience Recycle Center Technician (Convenience Recycle Center Tech), Deconstruction and Decontamination Waste Operations Specialist (D and D Waste Operations Specialist), Non-Ferrous Material Handler, Sort Line Worker, Sorter, Transfer Station Operator

Occupation-Specific Information

Tasks

  • Sort materials, such as metals, glass, wood, paper or plastics, into appropriate containers for recycling.
  • Clean recycling yard by sweeping, raking, picking up broken glass and loose paper debris, or moving barrels and bins.
  • Operate 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.
  • Sort metals to separate high-grade metals, such as copper, brass, and aluminum, for recycling.
  • Clean, inspect, or lubricate recyclable collection equipment or perform routine maintenance or minor repairs on recycling equipment, such as star gears, finger sorters, destoners, belts, and grinders.
  • Collect and sort recyclable construction materials, such as concrete, drywall, plastics, or wood, into containers.
  • Extract chemicals from discarded appliances, such as air conditioners or refrigerators, using specialized machinery, such as refrigerant recovery equipment.
  • Deposit recoverable materials into chutes or place materials on conveyor belts.
  • Operate balers to compress recyclable materials into bundles or bales.
  • Clean materials, such as metals, according to recycling requirements.
  • Record logs of recycled materials or waste chemicals removed from products.
  • Operate processing equipment, such as fiber-sorters and grinders, to sort, crush, or grind recyclable materials.
  • Cut discarded products, such as appliances and automobiles, into small pieces using saws, blow torches, or other hand or power tools.
  • Collect recyclable materials from curbside for delivery to designated facilities.
  • Operate automated refuse or manual recycling collection vehicles.
  • Operate shredders to reclaim steel from discarded appliances.
  • Dismantle wrecked vehicles by removing parts and labeling and sorting parts into containers.
  • Remove copper from circuit boards.

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Technology Skills

Hot technology
Hot Technologies are requirements most frequently included across all employer job postings.

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Occupational Requirements

Work Activities

  • Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates — Providing information to supervisors, co-workers, and subordinates by telephone, in written form, e-mail, or in person.
  • Controlling Machines and Processes — Using either control mechanisms or direct physical activity to operate machines or processes (not including computers or vehicles).
  • Handling and Moving Objects — Using hands and arms in handling, installing, positioning, and moving materials, and manipulating things.
  • Inspecting Equipment, Structures, or Materials — Inspecting equipment, structures, or materials to identify the cause of errors or other problems or defects.
  • Getting Information — Observing, receiving, and otherwise obtaining information from all relevant sources.
  • Monitoring Processes, Materials, or Surroundings — Monitoring and reviewing information from materials, events, or the environment, to detect or assess problems.
  • Operating Vehicles, Mechanized Devices, or Equipment — Running, maneuvering, navigating, or driving vehicles or mechanized equipment, such as forklifts, passenger vehicles, aircraft, or watercraft.
  • Performing General Physical Activities — Performing physical activities that require considerable use of your arms and legs and moving your whole body, such as climbing, lifting, balancing, walking, stooping, and handling materials.
  • Training and Teaching Others — Identifying the educational needs of others, developing formal educational or training programs or classes, and teaching or instructing others.
  • Identifying Objects, Actions, and Events — Identifying information by categorizing, estimating, recognizing differences or similarities, and detecting changes in circumstances or events.
  • Coordinating the Work and Activities of Others — Getting members of a group to work together to accomplish tasks.
  • Judging the Qualities of Objects, Services, or People — Assessing the value, importance, or quality of things or people.
  • Making Decisions and Solving Problems — Analyzing information and evaluating results to choose the best solution and solve problems.
  • Organizing, Planning, and Prioritizing Work — Developing specific goals and plans to prioritize, organize, and accomplish your work.
  • Developing and Building Teams — Encouraging and building mutual trust, respect, and cooperation among team members.
  • Coaching and Developing Others — Identifying the developmental needs of others and coaching, mentoring, or otherwise helping others to improve their knowledge or skills.
  • Processing Information — Compiling, coding, categorizing, calculating, tabulating, auditing, or verifying information or data.
  • Scheduling Work and Activities — Scheduling events, programs, and activities, as well as the work of others.
  • Guiding, Directing, and Motivating Subordinates — Providing guidance and direction to subordinates, including setting performance standards and monitoring performance.

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Detailed Work Activities

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Work Context

  • Wear Common Protective or Safety Equipment such as Safety Shoes, Glasses, Gloves, Hearing Protection, Hard Hats, or Life Jackets — 93% responded “Every day.”
  • Exposed to Contaminants — 78% responded “Every day.”
  • Duration of Typical Work Week — 69% responded “More than 40 hours.”
  • Outdoors, Exposed to Weather — 70% responded “Every day.”
  • Spend Time Standing — 59% responded “Continually or almost continually.”
  • Spend Time Using Your Hands to Handle, Control, or Feel Objects, Tools, or Controls — 60% responded “Continually or almost continually.”
  • Contact With Others — 52% responded “Constant contact with others.”
  • Spend Time Making Repetitive Motions — 51% responded “Continually or almost continually.”
  • Face-to-Face Discussions — 47% responded “Every day.”
  • Very Hot or Cold Temperatures — 37% responded “Every day.”
  • Outdoors, Under Cover — 50% responded “Every day.”
  • Work With Work Group or Team — 37% responded “Extremely important.”
  • In an Open Vehicle or Equipment — 53% responded “Every day.”
  • Responsible for Others' Health and Safety — 40% responded “Very high responsibility.”
  • Sounds, Noise Levels Are Distracting or Uncomfortable — 61% responded “Every day.”
  • Structured versus Unstructured Work — 31% responded “A lot of freedom.”
  • Responsibility for Outcomes and Results — 30% responded “High responsibility.”
  • Spend Time Bending or Twisting the Body — 39% responded “Continually or almost continually.”
  • Spend Time Walking and Running — 39% responded “About half the time.”
  • Freedom to Make Decisions — 34% responded “A lot of freedom.”
  • Time Pressure — 33% responded “Every day.”
  • Indoors, Not Environmentally Controlled — 49% responded “Every day.”
  • Coordinate or Lead Others — 26% responded “Extremely important.”
  • Physical Proximity — 44% responded “Moderately close (at arm's length).”
  • Impact of Decisions on Co-workers or Company Results — 28% responded “Important results.”
  • In an Enclosed Vehicle or Equipment — 40% responded “Every day.”
  • Extremely Bright or Inadequate Lighting — 42% responded “Every day.”
  • Frequency of Decision Making — 41% responded “Every day.”
  • Importance of Being Exact or Accurate — 42% responded “Important.”
  • Pace Determined by Speed of Equipment — 26% responded “Very important.”
  • Exposed to Hazardous Equipment — 43% responded “Every day.”

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Experience Requirements

Job Zone

Title
Job Zone Two: Some Preparation Needed
Education
These occupations usually require a high school diploma.
Related Experience
Some previous work-related skill, knowledge, or experience is usually needed. For example, a teller would benefit from experience working directly with the public.
Job Training
Employees in these occupations need anywhere from a few months to one year of working with experienced employees. A recognized apprenticeship program may be associated with these occupations.
Job Zone Examples
These occupations often involve using your knowledge and skills to help others. Examples include orderlies, counter and rental clerks, customer service representatives, security guards, upholsterers, tellers, and dental laboratory technicians.
SVP Range
3 months to 1 year of preparation (4.0 to < 6.0)

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Training & Credentials

State training
Local training
Certifications
Apprenticeships
Have a career path or location in mind? Visit Apprenticeship.gov external site to find apprenticeship opportunities near you.

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Worker Requirements

Skills

  • Operation and Control — Controlling operations of equipment or systems.
  • Active Listening — Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.
  • Monitoring — Monitoring/Assessing performance of yourself, other individuals, or organizations to make improvements or take corrective action.
  • Operations Monitoring — Watching gauges, dials, or other indicators to make sure a machine is working properly.

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Knowledge

  • Production and Processing — Knowledge of raw materials, production processes, quality control, costs, and other techniques for maximizing the effective manufacture and distribution of goods.
  • Mechanical — Knowledge of machines and tools, including their designs, uses, repair, and maintenance.
  • Administration and Management — Knowledge of business and management principles involved in strategic planning, resource allocation, human resources modeling, leadership technique, production methods, and coordination of people and resources.
  • Public Safety and Security — Knowledge of relevant equipment, policies, procedures, and strategies to promote effective local, state, or national security operations for the protection of people, data, property, and institutions.
  • Education and Training — Knowledge of principles and methods for curriculum and training design, teaching and instruction for individuals and groups, and the measurement of training effects.
  • Customer and Personal Service — Knowledge of principles and processes for providing customer and personal services. This includes customer needs assessment, meeting quality standards for services, and evaluation of customer satisfaction.
  • English Language — Knowledge of the structure and content of the English language including the meaning and spelling of words, rules of composition, and grammar.
  • Personnel and Human Resources — Knowledge of principles and procedures for personnel recruitment, selection, training, compensation and benefits, labor relations and negotiation, and personnel information systems.

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Education

How much education does a new hire need to perform a job in this occupation? Respondents said:

  • 74%
     
    responded: High school diploma or equivalent requiredmore info
  • 15%
     
    responded: Associate’s degree required
  • 8%
     
    responded: Doctoral degree requiredmore info

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Worker Characteristics

Abilities

  • Manual Dexterity — The ability to quickly move your hand, your hand together with your arm, or your two hands to grasp, manipulate, or assemble objects.
  • Control Precision — The ability to quickly and repeatedly adjust the controls of a machine or a vehicle to exact positions.
  • Arm-Hand Steadiness — The ability to keep your hand and arm steady while moving your arm or while holding your arm and hand in one position.
  • Multilimb Coordination — The ability to coordinate two or more limbs (for example, two arms, two legs, or one leg and one arm) while sitting, standing, or lying down. It does not involve performing the activities while the whole body is in motion.
  • Near Vision — The ability to see details at close range (within a few feet of the observer).
  • Category Flexibility — The ability to generate or use different sets of rules for combining or grouping things in different ways.
  • Finger Dexterity — The ability to make precisely coordinated movements of the fingers of one or both hands to grasp, manipulate, or assemble very small objects.
  • Trunk Strength — The ability to use your abdominal and lower back muscles to support part of the body repeatedly or continuously over time without "giving out" or fatiguing.
  • Flexibility of Closure — The ability to identify or detect a known pattern (a figure, object, word, or sound) that is hidden in other distracting material.
  • Information Ordering — The ability to arrange things or actions in a certain order or pattern according to a specific rule or set of rules (e.g., patterns of numbers, letters, words, pictures, mathematical operations).
  • Oral Comprehension — The ability to listen to and understand information and ideas presented through spoken words and sentences.
  • Oral Expression — The ability to communicate information and ideas in speaking so others will understand.
  • Perceptual Speed — The ability to quickly and accurately compare similarities and differences among sets of letters, numbers, objects, pictures, or patterns. The things to be compared may be presented at the same time or one after the other. This ability also includes comparing a presented object with a remembered object.
  • Rate Control — The ability to time your movements or the movement of a piece of equipment in anticipation of changes in the speed and/or direction of a moving object or scene.
  • Reaction Time — The ability to quickly respond (with the hand, finger, or foot) to a signal (sound, light, picture) when it appears.
  • Selective Attention — The ability to concentrate on a task over a period of time without being distracted.
  • Depth Perception — The ability to judge which of several objects is closer or farther away from you, or to judge the distance between you and an object.
  • Far Vision — The ability to see details at a distance.
  • Speed of Limb Movement — The ability to quickly move the arms and legs.

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Interests

Interest code: RC
Want to discover your interests? Take the O*NET Interest Profiler at My Next Move.
  • Realistic — Realistic occupations frequently involve work activities that include practical, hands-on problems and solutions. They often deal with plants, animals, and real-world materials like wood, tools, and machinery. Many of the occupations require working outside, and do not involve a lot of paperwork or working closely with others.
  • Conventional — Conventional occupations frequently involve following set procedures and routines. These occupations can include working with data and details more than with ideas. Usually there is a clear line of authority to follow.

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Work Values

  • Support — Occupations that satisfy this work value offer supportive management that stands behind employees. Corresponding needs are Company Policies, Supervision: Human Relations and Supervision: Technical.
  • Relationships — Occupations that satisfy this work value allow employees to provide service to others and work with co-workers in a friendly non-competitive environment. Corresponding needs are Co-workers, Moral Values and Social Service.
  • Working Conditions — Occupations that satisfy this work value offer job security and good working conditions. Corresponding needs are Activity, Compensation, Independence, Security, Variety and Working Conditions.

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Work Styles

  • Dependability — Job requires being reliable, responsible, and dependable, and fulfilling obligations.
  • Integrity — Job requires being honest and ethical.
  • Self-Control — Job requires maintaining composure, keeping emotions in check, controlling anger, and avoiding aggressive behavior, even in very difficult situations.
  • Attention to Detail — Job requires being careful about detail and thorough in completing work tasks.
  • Cooperation — Job requires being pleasant with others on the job and displaying a good-natured, cooperative attitude.
  • Adaptability/Flexibility — Job requires being open to change (positive or negative) and to considerable variety in the workplace.
  • Achievement/Effort — Job requires establishing and maintaining personally challenging achievement goals and exerting effort toward mastering tasks.
  • Independence — Job requires developing one's own ways of doing things, guiding oneself with little or no supervision, and depending on oneself to get things done.
  • Initiative — Job requires a willingness to take on responsibilities and challenges.
  • Stress Tolerance — Job requires accepting criticism and dealing calmly and effectively with high-stress situations.
  • Concern for Others — Job requires being sensitive to others' needs and feelings and being understanding and helpful on the job.
  • Leadership — Job requires a willingness to lead, take charge, and offer opinions and direction.
  • Persistence — Job requires persistence in the face of obstacles.
  • Innovation — Job requires creativity and alternative thinking to develop new ideas for and answers to work-related problems.

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Workforce Characteristics

Wages & Employment Trends

Median wage data for Laborers and Freight, Stock, and Material Movers, Hand.
Employment data for Laborers and Freight, Stock, and Material Movers, Hand.
Industry data for Laborers and Freight, Stock, and Material Movers, Hand.
Median wages (2021)
$15.02 hourly, $31,230 annual
State wages
Local wages
Employment (2021)
2,806,500 employees
Projected growth (2021-2031)
Average (4% to 7%)
Projected job openings (2021-2031)
421,900
State trends
Top industries (2021)

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics 2021 wage data external site and 2021-2031 employment projections external site. “Projected growth” represents the estimated change in total employment over the projections period (2021-2031). “Projected job openings” represent openings due to growth and replacement.

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Job Openings on the Web

State job openings
Local job openings

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More Information

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Sources of Additional Information

Disclaimer: Sources are listed to provide additional information on related jobs, specialties, and/or industries. Links to non-DOL Internet sites are provided for your convenience and do not constitute an endorsement.

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