Recycling/refuse operatives collect domestic, industrial and commercial waste and take it away for recycling or disposal. Materials that can be recycled include paper, glass, plastics, metals and textiles.
Operatives usually work in a team of one driver and several loaders. Each team is allocated an area to cover and keeps to a schedule, going out to a particular part of their area on a specific day of the week. On that day, householders and business owners put out their waste and recycling materials in an agreed location ready for collection.
There are also some specialist or non-routine tasks that may require extra training. These include picking up bulky items of waste, such as old furniture or washing machines.
Recycling/refuse operatives usually work from Monday to Friday, but may have occasional weekend or public holiday work. They start work early in the morning and usually finish mid-afternoon. Overtime is often available.
Loaders work outdoors in all weather conditions. In winter, they start the day working in the dark. There is a lot of walking, heavy lifting and carrying required, sometimes of awkwardly shaped items. Collectors have to be aware of the risk of injury, e.g. from sharp objects, such as broken glass.
The work can be dirty, smelly and dusty, and there is a risk of coming into contact with rats and other vermin. Loaders and drivers are provided with safety clothing, safety boots, gloves and waterproofs.
Drivers operate from their cabs for most of the time, apart from when they visit disposal sites.
Loaders may earn from around £11,000 to £18,000 a year.
A driver may earn £15,000 to £20,000 a year and supervisors and managers may earn between £17,000 and £25,000, or more.
Earnings may be increased through bonuses and overtime payments.
There are around 110,000 people employed in the waste management industry in England. Refuse collection is usually the responsibility of local councils. Some employ their own recycling/refuse operatives. Others contract the work out to waste management companies. There is more work in towns and cities than in rural areas.
More specialised jobs are available in companies that deal with dangerous waste, such as acids and other chemicals, or biological waste from hospitals.
Vacancies may be advertised in local newspapers, Jobcentre Plus offices and local authority job bulletins. They may also be advertised on the internet on websites such as www.lgjobs.com (for local government vacancies) and those of waste management companies - see www.letsrecycle.com for a list of such companies.
No qualifications are needed to become a recycling/refuse operative, but employers usually require applicants to have basic communication and numeracy skills. Applicants need to be physically fit and active. For health and safety reasons, the minimum age for entry is usually 18 years.
To become a driver, individuals need a large goods vehicle (LGV) licence, which can be obtained from age 18. It may be possible to obtain the licence through an Apprenticeship or Advanced Apprenticeship in Driving Goods Vehicles. An Apprenticeship for waste operatives is currently being developed.
Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships provide structured training with an employer. As an apprentice you must be paid at least £95 per week; you may well be paid more. A recent survey found that the average wage for apprentices was £170 a week. Your pay will depend on the sector in which you work, your age, the area where you live and the stage at which you have arrived in the Apprenticeship.
Entry to Employment (e2e) can help to prepare those who are not yet ready for an Apprenticeship. In addition, Young Apprenticeships may be available for 14- to 16-year-olds. More information is available from a Connexions personal adviser or at www.apprenticeships.org.uk.
There are different arrangements for Apprenticeships in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Initial training is usually carried out at the refuse collection depot by supervisors. It covers practical aspects, such as attaching bins to the collection vehicle and operating the crushing mechanism. It also includes health and safety, safety awareness, manual handling, protective equipment, handling needles and customer service.
Recycling/refuse operatives can work towards qualifications, such as:
- NVQ Levels 1 and 2 in waste management operations
- NVQ Levels 1 and 2 in recycling operations
Laboratory technicians carry out routine laboratory tests and perform a variety of technical support functions to help scientists, technologists and others with their work. They can work in research and development, scientific analysis and testing, education and manufacturing.
They are employed in a wide range of scientific fields which affect almost every aspect of our lives.
A loader should:
A driver should:
A loader who gains an LGV licence may be able to become a driver. Some employers help to pay for LGV training for their staff.
Progression is possible to team leader, supervisor, manager and waste management officer. Supervisors and managers work from the depot, allocating areas to teams, organising collections and checking work. Higher level qualifications can help progression. These include NVQ's at Levels 3 and 4 in the management of recycling operations and in waste management supervision and management. There is also a Higher National Certificate (HNC) and a foundation degree in wastes management.
Recycling/refuse operatives employed by local councils may be able to apply for jobs in other departments. They may also choose to move to work for a waste management company.
The Chartered Institution of Wastes Management,
9 Saxon Court, St Peter's Gardens,
Marefair, Northampton NN1 1SX
Tel: 01604 620426
Energy & Utility Skills, Friars Gate,
1011 Stratford Road, Shirley,
Solihull B90 4BN
Tel: 0845 077 9922
Skills for Logistics, 14 Warren Yard,
Wolverton Mill, Milton Keynes MK12 5NW
Tel: 01908 313360
Waste Management Industry Training
and Advisory Board (WAMITAB),
Peterbridge House, 3 The Lakes,
Northampton NN4 7HE
Tel: 01604 231950
Additional resources for job seekers and those already in a job.