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Working as a Refuse Collector

What Does a Refuse Collector Do

Hand laborers and material movers manually move freight, stock, or other materials. Others feed or remove material to or from machines, clean vehicles, pick up unwanted household goods, and pack materials for moving.


Hand laborers and material movers typically do the following:

  • Manually move material from one place to another
  • Pack or wrap products by hand
  • Keep a record of the material they move
  • Signal machine operators who help move material
  • Clean cars, equipment, and workplaces

In warehouses and wholesale and retail operations, hand laborers and material movers work closely with material moving machine operators and material recording clerks. Some workers are employed in manufacturing industries, where they load material onto conveyor belts or other machines.

Cleaners of vehicles and equipment wash automobiles and other vehicles, as well as storage tanks, pipelines, and related machinery. They use cleaning products, vacuums, hoses, and brushes. Most of these workers clean cars at a car wash, an automobile dealership, or a rental agency. Some clean industrial equipment at manufacturing firms. Some—for example, those who work at a car wash—interact with customers.

Hand laborers and freight, stock, and material movers move materials to and from storage and production areas, loading docks, delivery trucks, ships, and containers. Although their specific duties may vary, most of these movers, often called pickers, work in warehouses. Some workers retrieve products from storage and move them to loading areas. Other workers load and unload cargo from a truck. When moving a package, pickers keep track of the package number, sometimes with a hand-held scanner, to ensure proper delivery. Sometimes they open containers and sort the material.

Hand packers and packagers package a variety of materials by hand. They may label cartons, inspect items for defects, and keep records of items packed. Some of these workers pack materials for shipment and move them to a loading dock. Many hand packers are employed by grocery stores, where they bag groceries for customers at checkout.

Machine feeders and offbearers process materials by feeding them into equipment or by removing them from equipment. The equipment is generally operated by other workers, such as material moving machine operators. Machine feeders and offbearers help the operator if the machine becomes jammed or needs minor repairs. Machine feeders track the amount of material they process during a shift.

Refuse and recyclable material collectors gather garbage and recyclables from homes and businesses to transport to a dump, landfill, or recycling center. Many collectors lift garbage cans by hand and empty them into their truck. Some collectors drive the garbage or recycling truck along a scheduled route. When collecting materials from a dumpster, drivers use a hydraulic lift to empty the contents of the dumpster into their truck.

How To Become a Refuse Collector

Formal education is not usually required to become a hand laborer or material mover. Employers typically require only that applicants be physically able to perform the work.


There are no formal education requirements to become a hand laborer or material mover.


Most positions for hand laborers and material movers require less than 1 month of on-the-job training. Some workers need only a few days of training, and most training is done by a supervisor or a more experienced worker who decides when trainees are ready to work on their own.

Workers learn safety rules as part of their training. Many of these rules are standardized through the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA).

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Refuse and recyclable material collectors who drive trucks that exceed a certain capacity—such as vehicles with the combined weight of the vehicle, passengers, and cargo exceeding 26,000 pounds—must have a commercial driver’s license (CDL). Obtaining a CDL requires passing written, skill, and vision tests.

Important Qualities

Customer-service skills. Hand laborers and material movers who work with the public, such as grocery baggers or car wash attendants, must be pleasant and courteous to customers.

Hand–eye coordination. Most hand laborers and material movers use their arms and hands to manipulate objects or move objects into specific positions.

Listening skills. Hand laborers and material movers follow instructions that a supervisor gives them.

Physical stamina. Hand laborers and material movers need the endurance to perform strenuous tasks, such as moving or cleaning objects, throughout the day.

Physical strength. Some workers must be able to lift and carry heavy objects.

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Average Salary$30,407
Job Growth Rate4%

Average Salary for a Refuse Collector

Refuse Collectors in America make an average salary of $30,407 per year or $15 per hour. The top 10 percent makes over $41,000 per year, while the bottom 10 percent under $22,000 per year.
Average Salary

Best Paying Cities


Recently Added Salaries

Job TitleCompanyCompanyStart DateSalary
Seasonal Senior Refuse Collector
Seasonal Senior Refuse Collector
City of Des Moines
City of Des Moines
Refuse Collector I, II, & III
Refuse Collector I, II, & III
City of Norfolk, Va
City of Norfolk, Va
Refuse Collector I, II, & III
Refuse Collector I, II, & III
City of Norfolk, Va
City of Norfolk, Va
Refuse Collector I, II, & III
Refuse Collector I, II, & III
City of Norfolk, Va
City of Norfolk, Va
Refuse Collector I, II, & III
Refuse Collector I, II, & III
City of Norfolk, Va
City of Norfolk, Va

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Refuse Collector Demographics



90.2 %


7.5 %


2.3 %



67.5 %

Hispanic or Latino

13.5 %

Black or African American

12.1 %

Foreign Languages Spoken


66.7 %


33.3 %
See More Demographics

Refuse Collector Education


21.1 %


High School Diploma

57.8 %


12.3 %


12.3 %
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Top Skills For a Refuse Collector

The skills section on your resume can be almost as important as the experience section, so you want it to be an accurate portrayal of what you can do. Luckily, we've found all of the skills you'll need so even if you don't have these skills yet, you know what you need to work on. Out of all the resumes we looked through, 14.3% of refuse collectors listed cdl on their resume, but soft skills such as customer-service skills and listening skills are important as well.

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Top Refuse Collector Employers

1. Waste Management
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2. City of Columbia Heights
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3. DeKalb County Jail
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4. City of Richmond
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5. Advanced Disposal
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6. City of Little Rock
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Updated October 2, 2020