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Refuse Collectors

Employment Prospects


Approximately 121,330 refuse and recyclable materials collectors are employed in the United States. In the past, refuse collectors were employed almost exclusively by municipalities. Today, refuse collectors may work for private waste haulers that contract with local governments or even specialized firms, such as recycling haulers. Some local governments still operate their own waste-hauling programs, and in these communities, refuse collectors are city employees. But many have found it more cost-effective to contract with private waste haulers who employ their own refuse collectors. Similar jobs may be found at landfills, where workers are needed to assist drivers in dumping collected refuse, or at material recovery facilities (MRFs), where recyclables are taken. MRFs need workers to separate materials, load and unload trucks, and operate equipment such as balers that condense the recyclables into large, dense bales.

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