Jobs in the recycling industry

When we think of recycling jobs, we usually think of people sorting plastic on a conveyor belt or of waste haulers collecting recyclables at the curb. But this is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to jobs in the recycling industry. The truth is there are hundreds of jobs supported by recycling, many of which are high-paying career opportunities. Here are some examples:


The equipment used to process and collect recyclables is changing as technology advances. Engineers are needed to develop this machinery, design recycling facilities and incorporate the latest technology into these processes. In addition, engineers are employed to maintain the equipment that is in place.


Researchers are required at multiple levels in the recycling industry. First, scientific researchers are needed to find ways to recycle the materials we use every day and to find ways to improve current recycling processes. Second, social researchers are needed to determine the best ways to motivate recycling behavior and design recycling programs for communities. Third, marketing researchers are needed to investigate the market capacities for various materials and good produced in the recycling industry.

Plant Manager

Every recycling facility needs a manager or superintendent to run it. Depending on the size and scope of the operation multiple managers may be needed in a single facility.

Municipal Recycling Program Manager

Most medium to large sized municipalities have a department or division dedicated to solid waste. In many cases this includes both refuse and recycling, but in some the recycling operation is a division unto itself. The recycling manager has direct oversight of the full scope of the program, from managing the day to day collections to finding the best outlets for sale of the materials.


Manufacturing firms use recycled materials to make new products. This sector of the manufacturing industry is experiencing rapid growth. Plants hire line workers, but the also hire supervisors and support staff.

Product Developer

These are the people who come up with the ideas for new products made from recycled materials. Many of them work for a manufacturing firm dedicated to recycled products, but they may also be free-lance inventors who sell their ideas to larger firms for production.

Commodities Broker

Recycled materials are sold on the open market, much like other commodities. The people who arrange the sale and purchase of these commodities between the processors and end users are brokers.

Sales and Marketing

Haulers need to market their services to the public. Processors need to market their services to haulers on the one end, and end markets on the other. Manufacturers need to sell their goods. From the the time a bottle is collected at the curb to the time it is re-manufactured into a hand bag or fleece pullover, sales and marketing professionals are involved in every step of the process.


Entrepreneurs are the source for new recycling businesses. Whether it be hauling and collection operations, processing facilities or firms that manufacture recycled products, an entrepreneur was the person with the vision to start that business. These individuals are needed to continue the growth of the industry and come up with new and inventive markets for recycled materials.

Support Staff

All businesses require clerical support, accountants, office managers, billing clerks and human resources staff to run the administrative aspects of the operation. In smaller firms many of these duties may be combined, but larger firms will have specific positions dedicated to these functions.

Far from being limited to the collection and sorting end of the recycling stream, these jobs are numerous and varied, and many require advanced skill sets that command good wages. When you consider the scope of the industry, it’s easy to see how recycling creates jobs.


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