Everything About A Garbage Collector Career

You want to become a garbage collector but still want to get additional information before making your final career choice?

Great! This article is exactly for you since I will show you everything you need to know about being a garbage collector in the following chapters.

Not only will we talk about salaries, but you will also learn a lot about job satisfaction, future outlook, working hours, work-life balance, educational requirements and much more.

At the end of this article, I also provide you with an FAQ section where I answer the most common questions about being a garbage collector.

Hence, after reading this article, you will have a much better idea of whether you still want to work as a garbage collector or rather want to go for a different job instead.

Table of Contents

What does a Garbage Collector do?

Garbage collectors collect garbage and make sure that our streets remain clean and tidy.

This is crucial not only for visual purposes, but also to avoid an unpleasant smell and also the spread of diseases.

Responsibilities & Duties of a Garbage Collector

  • Cleaning the streets
  • Collecting the garbage
  • Making sure that everything looks tidy
  • Making sure that garbage doesn’t start to smell
  • Picking up materials suitable for recycling
  • Separate different types of waste
  • Transporting waste to landfills or recycling centers
  • Improving waste disposal processes
  • Raising awareness of people on how to dispose of waste properly

What a Typical Day of a Garbage Collector looks like

Garbage collectors start their workday early in the morning between 4 and 6 a.m.

The first thing they do is getting instructions from their boss regarding what area they have to collect garbage in.

After getting those instructions, garbage collectors prepare equipment and choose proper machines to get their work done.

After collecting garbage, garbage collectors also carry this garbage to landfills or recycling facilities.

You will do the same job over and over again until you are finally able to quit working between 3 and 5 p.m.

Garbage Collector Salary 2021

Garbage Collector salary brackets 2021

Salary BracketsSalary (per year)Salary (per hour)
Top 10 %> $63,000> $31.42
Top 25 %$54,000 – $59,000$26.93 – $29.38
Bottom 25 %$28,000 – $32,000$13.89 – $15.91
Bottom 10 %$21,000 – $24,000$10.44 – $11.94
Range$21,000 – $68,000$10.44 – $33.88
Average (Mean)$39,000$19.42
Median$37,000$18.39

Garbage Collector salary 2021 by expert level

Level of ExperienceSalary (per year)Salary (per hour)
Entry level$21,000 – $27,000$10.44 – $13.42
Junior$25,000 – $36,000$12.47 – $17.93
Professional$34,000 – $41,000$16.88 – $20.38
Senior Professional$39,000 – $52,000$19.41 – $25.92
Expert$50,000 – $58,000$24.92 – $28.95
Top Expert$56,000 – $68,000$27.89 – $33.88

Garbage Collector salary by state 2021 (average)

StateSalary (per year)Salary (per hour)
Alabama$37,500$18.73
Alaska$38,400$19.17
Arizona$41,600$20.24
Arkansas$39,800$19.88
California$44,700$22.32
Colorado$41,100$20.53
Connecticut$38,600$19.27
Delaware$35,300$17.58
District of Columbia$37,700$18.82
Florida$38,500$19.23
Georgia$37,900$18.94
Guam$39,200$19.53
Hawaii$41,800$20.89
Idaho$38,300$19.12
Illinois$37,600$18.77
Indiana$35,400$17.68
Iowa$39,900$19.93
Kansas$37,200$18.58
Kentucky$36,800$18.37
Louisiana$38,200$19.04
Maine$37,500$18.73
Maryland$38,100$19.04
Massachusetts$41,300$20.61
Michigan$39,700$19.84
Minnesota$38,400$19.18
Mississippi$37,800$18.88
Missouri$36,200$18.09
Montana$38,700$19.32
Nebraska$39,100$19.51
Nevada$37,500$18.73
New Hampshire$36,800$18.38
New Jersey$38,400$19.18
New Mexico$35,600$17.77
New York$47,200$23.54
North Carolina$38,100$19.03
North Dakota$37,600$18.79
Ohio$38,500$19.23
Oklahoma$37,300$18.62
Oregon$35,800$17.89
Pennsylvania$39,400$19.67
Rhode Island$38,900$19.34
South Carolina$39,200$19.53
South Dakota$37,300$18.62
Tennessee$36,900$18.44
Texas$39,100$19.51
Utah$38,200$19.08
Vermont$36,800$18.34
Virginia$41,300$20.61
Washington$42,800$21.38
West Virginia$38,100$19.04
Wisconsin$37,600$18.78
Wyoming$36,900$18.32

Job Security of Garbage Collectors

Garbage collectors have pretty decent job security.

Even though educational barriers to entry are pretty low and almost everyone can do this job, not many people want to work as garbage collectors anymore and this means that you will have an easy time finding a new job in case you get fired for various possible reasons.

Future Job Prospects of Garbage Collectors

Also the future outlook for garbage collectors is pretty decent.

Garbage collectors cannot be replaced by intelligent machines anytime soon and while our world population is growing, not many people want to work in this field anymore.

Consequently, there will be a huge shortage of garbage collectors out there in the near future and you will have a pretty safe job.

Working Hours of Garbage Collectors

Most garbage collectors start their workday between 4 and 6 a.m. and finish their workday between 3 and 5 p.m.

Hence, while you have to get up early, you will still have lots of time to spend on your hobbies or with your favorite people after work.

Job Satisfaction of Garbage Collectors

Many garbage collectors are not happy with what they are doing for a living since they have to get up pretty early and also don’t make lots of money while they still have to work in a pretty smelly environment.

Consequently, many garbage collectors think about quitting their jobs and working in a different field.

Promotion Opportunities of Garbage Collectors

There are barely any promotion opportunities for garbage collectors.

Once you work in this field, you will do the same work over and over again for many years or even decades.

Career Levels of Garbage Collectors

  • Garbage collector intern
  • Junior garbage collector
  • Senior garbage collector
  • Garbage collector leading a team
  • Manager of a garbage collection facility
  • Owner of a garbage collection firm

Fields and Types of Garbage Collectors

  • Garbage collector focused on removing glass waste
  • Garbage collector specialized in collecting plastic waste
  • Garbage collector focused on collecting aluminum waste
  • Garbage collector with expertise in renewable materials
  • Garbage collector focused on hazardous waste
  • Garbage collector with expertise in the recycling of waste
  • Garbage collector in rural areas
  • Garbage collector in urban areas
  • Non-profit garbage collector

Educational Requirements for Garbage Collectors

You don’t need any form of fancy education for becoming a garbage collector.

All you need to do is finishing high school with decent grades and you will be able to apply for a garbage collector career.

How to become a Garbage Collector

  1. Inform yourself about the advantages and disadvantages of being a garbage collector
  2. Apply for an internship at a local garbage collection facility
  3. Make a good impression during your internship
  4. Stay in touch with your colleagues
  5. Get your high school diploma with decent grades
  6. Apply for jobs as a garbage collector
  7. Master the job interview
  8. Choose the best offer
  9. Sign your labor contract

Character Traits you need as a Garbage Collector

  • You should not be afraid to work with your hands
  • Willingness to get dirty
  • Willingness to smell after work
  • Willingness to work in a field with rather low reputation
  • Ability to deal with snarky comments about your job in a healthy manner
  • Patience with people who dispose of their waste in an improper manner
  • Passion for keeping our streets clean
  • Empathy for people who may not understand the importance of your job
  • Willingness to start working pretty early

Hard Skills for Garbage Collectors

  • Knowledge of how to collect waste properly
  • You should know how to prepare different materials for recycling
  • Knowledge of legal frameworks related to garbage collection
  • Knowledge of how to manage hazardous waste
  • Expertise in how to resolve risky situations
  • Knowledge of how to assure the safety of your coworkers
  • You should be physically fit
  • Knowledge of how to maintain garbage collection equipment
  • Good conflict resolution skills can help as well

Soft Skills for Garbage Collectors

  • Good time management skills help you get things done
  • Passion for keeping your city clean
  • Empathy for people who don’t understand your career choice
  • Good people skills help you resolve conflicts
  • Empathy for people who make fun of you
  • Teamworking skills help you get things done faster
  • You should not be afraid to work in a smelly environment
  • Persistence to get things done even during bad times
  • Willingness to work outdoors during times of bad weather

Exit Options for Garbage Collectors

There are not many exit options for garbage collectors.

Once you work in this field, you will get stuck there for many years or even decades if you don’t get additional education and skills needed in different fields of the job market right now.

Garbage Collector – Similar Careers

  • Garbage truck driver
  • Cleaner
  • Channel digger
  • Gardener
  • Painter
  • Plumber
  • Roofer
  • Carpenter
  • Welder

Garbage Collector Career FAQs

Is working as a garbage collector physically demanding?

Working as a garbage collector can be physically demanding since you always have to lift the garbage of people into the truck, even though machines will make your life much easier compared to former decades.

Hence, there is a certain level of physical work involved in working as a garbage collector and if you are not willing to work with your hands in a physical manner, you should rather go for a classical office job instead.

Is working as a garbage collector mentally demanding?

You don’t have to stress your brain that much if you want to work as a garbage collector.

In fact, you will do the same work over and over again and you can do your work in a mentally relaxed and stress-free manner compared to other people who have to work on complex models and with complex tools at work every day.

Is it dangerous to work as a garbage collector?

Working as a garbage collector can be risky since you always have to worry about getting involved in traffic accidents and you may also get hurt by garbage collection equipment.

Consequently, you always need to stay awake at work to avoid those issues.

How long do garbage collectors stay in their jobs?

Garbage collectors often stay in their jobs for many years or even decades since they simply don’t learn many skills that are valuable in the job market right now and have a difficult time switching to a different field.

Is it easy for garbage collectors to find a new job?

It is relatively easy for garbage collectors to find a new job in this field since there is a huge shortage of garbage collectors in many regions.

Consequently, in case you lose your job, chances are that you will find a new one soon and you therefore don’t have to worry much about getting unemployed for a longer period of time.

Is it hard to switch from being a garbage collector to another field of work?

While garbage collectors have an easy time finding a new job in their field, it is pretty hard for them to get out of the garbage collection industry since they simply often lack the skills needed to do so.

Consequently, if you want to work in a different field, you would have to get additional education first most of the time.

Do garbage collectors have a high social status?

Even though garbage collectors do an important job for society, they don’t have a high social status at all.

Some people may even make fun of you and you need a strong mindset to ignore those people and really appreciate yourself and what you do for society.

Can you help out your family and friends as a garbage collector?

While you will do an important job to keep our system running, you will still not be able to help out your loved ones as much as craftsmen who can fix and install many things around the home.

Consequently, you might have a rather low social status also within your circle of friends.

Can garbage collectors work remotely?

Garbage collectors are not able to work remotely since they have to pick up the trash in person.

Thus, you will have to get to your workplace in person every day and compared to someone who works in a classical office job and can work from home quite often, you will just be less flexible in various parts of your daily life.

Is it easy to find a partner as a garbage collector?

Since garbage collectors have a rather low social status and also don’t make good money, they also have a pretty hard time finding someone for a long-term relationship since garbage collectors are just not considered good providers and people who want to have a family sooner or later often look for someone who has better overall prospects.

Do garbage collectors have to work on weekends?

Garbage collectors sometimes also have to work on weekends.

While this doesn’t mean that you have to work on all weekends, you might have to work some of them and if you are not willing to do that, you might rather want to work in a field where you have a standard workweek instead.

Do garbage collectors have to work on holidays?

Garbage collectors don’t have to work on holidays most of the time.

Instead, you can spend those nice days with your family or friends or also make nice trips while many other people like waiters or train drivers have to work during those days.

Do garbage collectors have to work at nighttime?

While garbage collectors have to get to work relatively early, you will also be able to quit your workday pretty soon in the afternoon.

Consequently, you will not have to work at nighttime for the majority of your workday and can also spend lots of leisure with your family.

Do you have to travel as a garbage collector?

There is no need to travel for garbage collectors.

While other people who work in demanding office jobs will be on business trips quite often, you will be able to stay at home and spend your leisure with your loved ones instead.

Are garbage collector pensions good?

Due to the rather low salaries of garbage collectors, also their pensions are rather low in most cases.

Making things worse, garbage collectors also can’t save enough money for retirement and once they get older and quit their active careers, many garbage collectors are no longer able to pay their bills.

Are garbage collector salaries going up?

Garbage collector salaries have been going up over the past years.

However, you will still not be able to make good money and compared to your friends who attend college and get a fancy degree, you will often only make a small fraction compared to what they are making and may become pretty envious and frustrated in the long run.

Can you have a positive impact on society as a garbage collector?

Garbage collectors are pretty important to keep our system running.

Without garbage collectors, we would drown in waste and our quality of life would suffer quite a lot.

Consequently, you can do a pretty important job for society as a garbage collector.

How long does it take to become a garbage collector?

Since you don’t need a college degree for becoming a garbage collector, you can start your garbage collector career right after finishing high school.

Hence, while many other people have to spend lots of time and money on college, you will be able to avoid those costs and can even start making money at a rather young age.

Is it difficult to become a garbage collector?

It’s not difficult to become a garbage collector.

If you are motivated and also passionate to work in this field, you will find a job in this industry pretty soon since there is a huge demand for waste collectors while not many people want to work in this field anymore.

Do you need to be smart to work as a garbage collector?

You don’t need a high IQ to work as a garbage collector.

What’s much more important is that you are willing to get dirty at work and that you are also fine with getting up early every day to stay happy with what you are doing in the long run.

Do garbage collectors have a good work-life balance?

Garbage collectors have pretty decent work-life balance.

Even though they have to get up pretty early, their shift will also end pretty early in the afternoon and you will have more than enough time to spend on your hobbies or to meet up with your favorite people after work.

Do garbage collectors have to work many extra hours?

Garbage collectors don’t have to work many extra hours.

Instead, you will have a fixed shift and once your shift is over, you will just finish your workday and get back to work the next day.

Hence, it will be pretty easy for you to plan your life after work since you will often come home relatively early on a regular basis.

How to maximize your chances of becoming a garbage collector?

The more experience you get in this field at an early age, the more likely it will be to get a job in this industry.

Thus, if you do an internship and stay in touch with your colleagues, you can really stand out from the crowd and maximize your chances of becoming a garbage collector.

Can garbage collectors work part-time?

Garbage collectors are not able to work part-time in most cases.

Even though it might be possible, you would still have to work full-time in order to make a living from what you are doing since hourly wages are pretty low and working part-time would just not be enough to pay your bills.

Do garbage collectors work indoors or outdoors?

Garbage collectors have to work outdoors for most of their workday.

Consequently, you should not be afraid to work outdoors during times of bad weather, during extreme cold or heat.

If you want to work in a rather comfortable environment where you can use air conditioning or heating to make your life easier, you should rather aspire to working in a classical office environment instead of becoming a garbage man or garbage woman.

What does the workplace of a garbage collector look like?

Since you will collect garbage every day, you will just work in the streets most of the time and since you will often be responsible for the same routes for many weeks or months, you will soon know the area you are working in by heart.

Do you have to look good for working as a garbage collector?

Your looks don’t matter at all for your success or failure in the garbage collection industry.

What’s much more important than your looks is that you are really passionate about what you are doing and that you are also willing to get dirty and smelly at work.

Is a garbage collector career beneficial for your private life?

Since you will have a rather low social status and will also not make lots of money as a garbage collector, your job may not be beneficial but rather detrimental for your private life since you will often not find someone who wants to stay with you for a longer period of time or to have a family with you since you are just not the best provider.

Do you need a college degree for becoming a garbage collector?

You don’t need a degree for becoming a garbage collector.

What’s much more important than looking good on paper is that you are willing to work with your hands and are not afraid of smell or other unpleasant encounters at work.

Do you need to be certified to work as a garbage collector?

You also don’t need to get any certificates for working as a garbage collector.

All you need is a passion for keeping our streets tidy and clean and a high level of fitness and you will be good to go.

How much does it cost to become a garbage collector?

Since you will not have to spend money on college education, you can become a trash collector at virtually no cost and you can even start making money right after getting your high school diploma at a rather young age.

Is being a garbage collector a good career?

Working as a garbage collector is not considered a good career since you will have a rather low social standing and you will also not be able to make lots of money.

Consequently, many garbage collectors are not happy with what they are doing for a living and secretly consider quitting their jobs.

Is it easy to start your own business as a garbage collector?

It is pretty hard to start your own business in the garbage collection industry since you would have to compete with really big players and also official federal institutions and if you want to work self-employed one day, you should not become a garbage collector but rather work in a different field where it is much easier to reach your goal.

Can garbage collectors teach themselves?

Garbage collectors are able to teach themselves to a certain extent.

However, you still need proper schooling and advice from experienced colleagues to get things done in time in a safe manner.

Do garbage collectors make good money?

Trash collectors don’t make good money from what they are doing for a living.

In fact, many garbage collectors complain about their poor salary since they are barely able to even pay for basic expenses.

Is it ever too late to become a garbage collector?

Since working as a garbage collector can be physically demanding, you should not wait too long to become a garbage collector since your body may no longer be suitable to work in this field in your 40s or 50s.

Do garbage collectors have to quit their careers early?

Some garbage collectors also have to quit their careers early since they are simply no longer able to work in this physically demanding environment due to physical health issues they might have to deal with.

What is the most challenging thing about working as a garbage collector?

The most challenging thing about being a garbage collector is that you always have to stay awake to avoid serious accidents at work.

Can you provide for your family by working as a garbage collector?

Due to the rather low salary of garbage collectors, it is pretty hard to provide for your family in this field. In fact, your spouse will have to also work quite often and if you want to afford some luxury as a family, you might rather want to work in a different industry instead of becoming a garbage collector.

Will garbage collectors suffer from old-age poverty?

Since garbage collectors are not able to make good money from their jobs, many of them also suffer from old-age poverty.

In fact, once garbage collectors quit their active careers, many of them are barely able to pay their bills anymore and may even lose their homes since they might no longer be able to afford to pay rent.

Can garbage collectors retire early?

Most trash collectors are not able to retire early since they just don’t make enough money during their active careers and have to work until official retirement age or even longer.

Do garbage collectors get a fixed or variable salary?

Garbage collectors get a fixed salary most of the time.

Hence, whether you work hard or not will not have a significant impact on the money you will make as a trash collector.

Can you get rich as a garbage collector?

It is almost impossible to get rich as a garbage collector.

If you really want to become wealthy or even rich in this industry, you would have to start your own business and scale it as much as possible instead of working as a regular employed trash collector.

Do garbage collectors need a second job?

Due to the rather low wage, many garbage collectors need to work a second job to pay their bills, especially if they live in expensive regions where rents are quite high.

Do you get continuous training as a garbage collector?

Once you got some experience in this field, you will no longer get any training.

Instead, you will learn most things you need on the job and it is on you to become better over time.

Do you get sick pay as a garbage collector?

Since garbage collectors are often employed by the government or municipalities, they often also get additional perks and one of those benefits often includes sick pay.

Hence, even in case you get sick and are no longer able to work, you will still get some compensation most of the time.

Do garbage collectors have a high level of responsibility?

Garbage collectors have a high level of responsibility since they have to make sure to collect waste in a fast and efficient manner while they still have to make sure that they don’t get involved in traffic accidents at the same time.

Can garbage collectors work abroad?

Trash collectors are needed in all parts of the world.

Hence, if you want to move abroad, you could still work as a garbage collector.

However, wages and working conditions might be pretty different and you should inform yourself properly before making this step so that you don’t get disappointed later.

Is it stressful to work as a garbage collector?

Working as a garbage collector is not stressful.

You will have enough time to do your job and don’t have to stress yourself as much as people who have to meet strict timelines and report to their boss on a regular basis.

Is it boring to work as a garbage collector?

Working as a trash collector may become boring if you are not passionate about what you are doing for a living since you will do the same things over and over again and if you don’t see a purpose in what you are doing, your job may become pretty boring and annoying in the long run.

Is being a garbage collector hard?

While working as a garbage collector is not hard on a mental level, it still involves physical work and if you are not fit or just don’t want to work with your hands in a physical manner, you should rather go for a career in a classical office job instead.

Are garbage collectors at risk of burnout?

Garbage collectors are not at great risk of burnout since they don’t have much stress at work but can rather get things done in a rather relaxed manner.

Is there a dress code for garbage collectors?

In many cases, you will get workwear from your employer so that people know that you have official permission to collect garbage and also to raise awareness of traffic participants to reduce the risk of accidents.

What kind of garbage collectors are paid the most?

The more experience you have in this field and the more personnel responsibility you have, the more you can make as a garbage collector.

However, your salary will still be quite low compared to most other people out there and if money is really important to you, you should rather work in a different field instead.

What percentage of garbage collectors are women?

Only around 10% of all garbage collectors are women while over 90% are men.

Men just have an easier time in this job since they are physically stronger and are also more willing to get dirty and smelly at work.

Do I need a mentor to succeed as a garbage collector?

There is no need for having a mentor as a garbage collector.

What’s much more important is that you get along with your colleagues at work and that you are willing to work hard.

Will you be personally liable for mistakes as a garbage collector?

Most of the time, you will not be personally liable for mistakes as a garbage collector.

However, if you want to be 100% sure, you should ask a lawyer in this regard and may also want to get insurance to be covered in case of emergency.

Do garbage collectors have a high life expectancy?

Trash collectors don’t have a high life expectancy since they are at risk of serious accidents at work and they might also get in touch with many germs over time.

Moreover, in case of serious health issues, garbage collectors are often not able to afford the best medical treatment and their overall life expectancy is rather low.

Do garbage collectors suffer from sleeping problems?

Since garbage collectors have to get up pretty early, some of them might also suffer from sleeping problems and from the adverse health issues that often come along with it.

What states are best for working as a garbage collector?

Since there will not be a huge difference in the salary of garbage collectors across states, you should choose a state where living costs are rather low so that you can make a living from your trash collection job and don’t have to work a second job.

Who do garbage collectors work with?

Garbage collectors work in a team of people who try to keep our streets as clean as tidy as possible.

Hence, you should be a team player and should be easy to get along with to stay happy with what you are doing in the long run.

Is working as a garbage collector cool?

Being a garbage collector is not considered cool by most people out there and some people may even make fun of you.

However, you should still go for it if you are really passionate about working in this field, no matter what other people may think about you.

Can you start a side hustle as a garbage collector?

It is pretty hard to start a side hustle as a garbage collector since you will just not learn many things that are needed for starting a side hustle in your job and you may also not have the time to do something on the side.

Do you have to be creative as a garbage collector?

You don’t need to be creative for working as a trash collector since you will just do the same things over and over again and you should rather work like a machine to get things done in time instead.

Do garbage collectors suffer from being overweight?

Since garbage collectors have to work in a physical manner, they get lots of exercise at work and their risk of suffering from being overweight is rather low.

How employable are garbage collectors?

Garbage collectors are pretty employable since people produce an increasing amount of trash while there are not many people who want to work in this field anymore.

Consequently, the future outlook for trash collectors will be excellent.

Are garbage collectors happy with their jobs?

Most garbage collectors are not happy with their jobs since they will be surrounded by unpleasant smell while they still don’t make good money at the same time.

Is working as a garbage collector exciting?

Working as a garbage collector is not exciting at all since you will do the same things over and over again and if you don’t have an inner motivation to do your job as best as possible, you may get tired of your job soon.

Can you have a positive impact on our environment as a garbage collector?

You can have a positive impact on our environment as a garbage collector since the more garbage you collect and process, the better it is for our planet since more materials can be recycled and we can use our natural resources more efficiently in general.

What are the pros and cons of working as a garbage collector?

If you still consider becoming a garbage collector, you might also want to have a look at additional pros and cons of a garbage collector career.

Sources

https://www.statista.com/statistics/1099882/waste-collection-services-industry-key-figures-us/

https://www.statista.com/topics/2630/waste-management-in-the-united-states/

Interviews and own research.

About the author

My name is Andreas and my mission is to educate people about the different career paths that are possible in our current state of the world. In my opinion, people often make the mistake to choose their profession solely based on how much money they can earn from it instead of doing what makes them really happy.

This is quite sad and I just want to give people a more objective picture of how a fulfilling career could look like. I did the same when I started working in consulting after finishing my Master’s degree in Economics. However, I’ve quit pretty soon after that since I haven’t found true meaning in my job.

Now I can do what I really love to do and I want to enable as many other people as well to go this exciting path towards happiness instead of money.

I conducted various interviews with employees to give you a good impression of what working in different fields will look like and that you can make the best possible decision regarding your future career choice.

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