Refuse Collector

The Job and What's Involved

You would work as part of a small team of one driver and several loaders, collecting waste from business owners and householders. Each team is allocated an area to cover each day of the week and must keep to a set schedule.

As a refuse collector your key tasks would include:

  • Moving bags, wheelie bins and recycling bins and boxes.
  • Using a lifting mechanism to tip the waste from bins into the lorry.
  • Throwing plastic bags into the back of the lorry.
  • Crushing the waste.
  • Sorting recyclable materials at the kerbside.
  • Guiding the driver safely around the streets.
  • Helping to unload the waste at designated facilities.
  • Recording the amount of waste collected.

With experience, you might drive the collection lorry and supervise the team of loaders.

As the driver, you would:

  • Make routine maintenance checks on the lorry before you set out.
  • Drive the lorry, stopping often and keeping pace with the loaders.
  • Manoeuvre the lorry in a safe and efficient manner.
  • Make sure that people are clear of the lorry before crushing starts.
  • Drive the collection vehicle to a transfer station, landfill site or recycling depot for weighing and unloading.

Typical working hours would be between 6.30am or 7am and 3.30pm, Monday to Friday. You may sometimes need to work on public holidays, and weekend overtime may be available.

You would work outdoors in all weather conditions. The work is active and involves bending, lifting and carrying heavy bags and bins, and you may also need to dispose of substances such as chemicals or clinical waste from hospitals.

You would be provided with safety clothing including reflective jackets and heavy duty gloves.

Salaries are typically around £17,000 to £18,000 a year for collectors and £19,000 for drivers. Managers can earn around £25,000 a year.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

You could work for a local council or for a private waste management company under contract to a council. You could also work for one of the growing number of commercial recycling companies.

Jobs may be advertised in the local press, Jobcentre Plus, employers' websites and the LG Jobs website.

Education and Training

You do not need any qualifications to become a refuse collector or loader. In some organisations you may have to be aged 18 or over, for health and safety reasons.

To work as a driver, you must have an LGV (Large Goods Vehicle) licence. See the large goods vehicle driver job guide for more information.

You may be able to get in to this type of work through an Apprenticeship. The Intermediate Level Apprenticeship (level 2) in Sustainable Resource Management provides an ideal opportunity to train for this role. Employers recruiting on to the intermediate level apprenticeship would normally look for applicants holding three to five GCSE's including English, maths and a science subject, although this is not always the case. Applicants with higher grades are more likely to be successful.

The range of Apprenticeships available in your area will depend on the local jobs market and the types of skills employers need from their workers. To find out more about the Apprenticeship, visit Energy & Utility Skills' website or the Apprenticeships website.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

You will be trained on the job by your employer. Your training is likely to include health and safety, manual handling, and the disposal of hazardous items.

You may get the chance to achieve the following work-based qualifications:

  • Level 1 Diploma for General Recycling Operative
  • Level 1 Diploma in Recycling Activities
  • Level 2 Diploma for Sustainable Recycling Activities
  • Level 2 Certificate for Sustainable Waste Management Operative
  • Level 2 Certificate for Sustainable Waste Management Operative (Waste Collection Driver)
  • Level 2 Certificate for Sustainable Waste Management Operative (Waste Collection)
  • Level 2 Certificate for Sustainable Waste Management Operative (Team Leader)
  • Level 2 Certificate for Sustainable Waste Management Operative (Waste Site Operative)
  • Level 2 Certificate for Sustainable Waste Management Operative (Weighbridge Operative)

If you gain an LGV (Large Goods Vehicle) licence you could progress to become a refuse collection driver. Some employers may pay for your LGV training.

With experience, you could progress into supervisory or waste management jobs and take further qualifications such as the level 3 Diploma for Waste Supervisor and level 3 and 4 Diplomas for Waste Manager and the level 4 Diploma in Waste Management Operations.

See the Energy & Utility Skills website for details of training providers.

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Roustabouts do basic tasks to help keep the rig and platform working efficiently and Roughnecks do practical tasks involved in the drilling operation, under the supervision of the driller.


Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A refuse collector needs:

  • Physical fitness and stamina.
  • The ability to work well in a team.
  • A polite and professional manner with the public.
  • A hardworking and responsible attitude.
  • Awareness of health and safety.
  • The ability to work quickly and cleanly.
  • Good levels of concentration, observation and driving skills, for driver jobs.

Your Long Term Prospects

With experience, you could progress to team leader or supervisor.

With further training you could become a waste management officer or recycling officer – for more information, see the related job guides and the Chartered Institute of Wastes Management (CIWM) website.

Get Further Information

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

Waste Management Industry Training & Advisory,
Board (WAMITAB), Peterbridge House,
3 The Lakes, Northampton NN4 7HE
Tel: 01604 231950

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