Recycling and Reclamation Worker

views updated

Recycling and Reclamation Worker

Education and Training: High School plus training

Salary: Median—$12.38 per hour

Employment Outlook: Poor

Definition and Nature of the Work

Recycling and reclamation workers turn old products, used appliances, and automobiles into useful, environmentally safe raw materials.

Scrap metal processing workers sort and prepare metals for recycling. For example, some scrap metal processing workers work in plants where aluminum cans are sorted, crushed by machinery, and baled into bundles, then shipped to smelters who melt and purify the metal for reuse. Other scrap metal processing workers work in plants where copper is reclaimed from used circuit boards, or where household appliances are cut up and shredded to reclaim the steel. Scrap metal workers may use tools such as torches and saws to cut up used products. They may operate other machines, such as balers, that compress metals into easy-to-transport bundles. Workers may also operate forklifts, front-end loaders, trucks, and other equipment for moving large, heavy items.

Reclamation technicians work in plants, salvaging yards, and recycling centers where appliances, automobiles, and other products containing potentially harmful chemicals are prepared for recycling. Reclamation technicians use special machinery, such as refrigerant recovery equipment, to extract the chemicals used in air conditioners and refrigerators. They then may use tools—such as blow torches or saws—to cut up the appliances or automobiles in preparation for sending the steel to a smelter. Reclamation technicians are required to keep accurate, up-to-date records of their machinery's maintenance and the waste chemicals removed from products.

Education and Training Requirements

Scrap metal processing workers do not need any specific education or training. Most start out as handlers and learn to use specific equipment while on the job.

Reclamation technicians, on the other hand, must obtain technician certification through a program approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Upon the successful completion of a program and mail-in exam, students receive a certificate. In addition, reclamation technicians must have the skills needed to keep accurate and legible records. A basic understanding of mechanics and chemistry is also necessary.

Getting the Job

People interested in jobs as recycling and reclamation workers should apply directly to local salvaging yards, recycling centers, or landfills. Many state governments maintain state recycling directories.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

With experience, recycling and reclamation workers may move into supervisory positions. Workers with knowledge of business and accounting may advance in the scrap metal industry. Experienced reclamation technicians may be hired as consultants by communities or businesses involved in recycling efforts.

The job outlook through the year 2014 for workers in this field is poor, as predictions state that improvements in equipment, such as automated storage and retrieval systems and conveyors, will increase productivity and limit the demand for new hires. Employment will also depend on new environmental laws and regulations. For workers trained to work with hazardous materials, there will be a strong demand in the coming years.

Working Conditions

Recycling and reclamation workers work in plants or yards with heavy equipment. The work is dirty and potentially hazardous, requiring constant attention. The work demands physical exertion, and many low-level jobs, such as sorting, are repetitious.

Earnings and Benefits

Like other handlers, recycling workers usually start by earning the minimum wage. With experience, a typical recycling worker can earn up to $12.38 per hour or more. Benefits vary according to employers. Workers employed by city, county, or state governments may belong to a union and will earn comprehensive benefits packages.

Where to Go for More Information

American Society of Mining and Reclamation
3134 Montavesta Rd.
Lexington, KY 40502
(859) 335-6529

National Association of Environmental Professionals
P.O. Box 2086
Bowie, MD 20718
(888) 251-9902

Steel Recycling Institute
Idersen Dr.
Pittsburgh, PA 15220-2700
(412) 922-2772

Workers trained as reclamation technicians and with the ability to handle hazardous materials may work with consulting firms or as independent contractors. They have the potential to earn more money than other recycling workers.