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Recycling or rubbish collector

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Summary of occupation

Recycling and rubbish collectors remove waste and goods for recycling from homes, businesses and institutions such as schools and hospitals. They drive or ride in rubbish trucks, pick up bags, bins or recycling materials and throw them into the truck, or operate industrial waste disposal facilities. They may also separate recycling materials and remove hazardous waste, and unload or clean the truck. Recycling and rubbish collectors may also plan and organise the schedules and routes for rubbish and recycling collection in consultation with local government. Recycling and rubbish collectors work all over the state.

ANZSCO description: Collects household, commercial and industrial  waste for recycling or disposal.
Alternative names: Refuse Collector, Waste Removalist
Specialisations: Garbage Depot Worker
Job prospects: Limited
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Knowledge, skills and attributes

A recycling and rubbish collector needs:

  • physical fitness and stamina
  • to enjoy outdoor work
  • manual and practical skills
  • a methodical approach to their work
  • speed and efficiency
  • to be able and willing to work in unsanitary conditions
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Working conditions

Recycling and rubbish collectors work outdoors, usually in large trucks, which they drive either along established domestic routes or to businesses and other organisations, and also to recycling plants and waste disposal facilities. They work in most weather conditions, and are often required to undertake a lot of heavy lifting. Working conditions may be dirty, smelly and unhygienic. They usually work irregular hours, which often involve early mornings.

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Salary details

On average, recycling and rubbish collectors can expect to earn between $1 000 to $1 249 per week ($52 000 and $64 999 per year), depending on the organisation they work for, and their level of experience. 

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Tools and technologies

Recycling and rubbish collectors generally drive rubbish collection vehicles such as trucks, which may be fitted with hydraulic lifting equipment and automated compacting equipment. They may also be required to work with industrial waste-disposal equipment. They are often required to wear protective clothing such as masks, gloves, boots and high-visibility clothing when they are working on roadsides.

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Education and training/entrance requirements

You do not need any qualifications to become a recycling and rubbish collector and get training on the job. However, your employment prospects may be improved with formal qualifications. 

You can also become a recycling and rubbish collector by completing a traineeship. Anasset maintenance (waste management) traineeship usually takes 12 months to complete. Alternatively a waste collection driver traineeship usually takes 24 months to complete. 

​To operate a waste collection vehicle, you will need appropriate licences to drive vehicles and operate machinery. 

Related courses

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Apprenticeships and traineeships

As an apprentice or trainee, you enter into a formal training contract with an employer. You spend most of your time working and learning practical skills on the job and you spend some time undertaking structured training with a registered training provider of your choice. They will assess your skills and when you are competent in all areas, you will be awarded a nationally recognised qualification.

If you are still at school you can access an apprenticeship through your school. You generally start your school based apprenticeship by attending school three days a week, spending one day at a registered training organisation and one day at work. Talk to your school's VET Co-ordinator to start your training now through VET in Schools. If you get a full-time apprenticeship you can apply to leave school before reaching the school leaving age.

If you are no longer at school you can apply for an apprenticeship or traineeship and get paid while you learn and work.

Related apprenticeships

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Recognition of prior learning

If you think you already have some of the skills or competencies, obtained either through non-formal or informal learning, you may be able to gain credit through recognition of prior learning.

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