17 Pros and Cons of Being a Garbage Collector

You might think you have to attend school for years just to make a decent living wage.

For some jobs, that may be true, but not if you work as a garbage collector.

Collecting neighborhood trash could provide you with an alternative to requiring a college education to make $40,000 a year or more.

This occupation has its pros and cons though, just like any profession does.

Pros of Being a Garbage Collector

1. Job Stability

Working as a trash collector could provide you with a stable job with a low risk of unemployment.

After all, you usually do not have to worry about your employer finding cheaper labor elsewhere.

And why is that?

It is because every community has to deal with its own waste.

They cannot usually just hire someone from halfway across the country or the world to take your place.

2. Always a Need

You probably will never encounter a shortage of waste to manage—at least not until people begin to reduce, reuse and recycle more.

From 2020 to 2030, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts an increased need for “Hand Laborers and Material Movers” by 7%.

U.S. News also shares some BLS data, which says that an 11.9% job growth increase for garbage collectors may occur by 2030.

This translates to about 16,700 new jobs during this 10-year period.

3. Decent Salary

You can earn a decent salary working as a trash collector.

As of April 2022, you may make an average of $40,112 per year in the United States.

Your wages may increase over time too.

Some garbage collection personnel may make $50,000 per year or more.

4. Short Training Periods

As long as you have completed high school or have your GED, it may only take you about as long as it takes to obtain your CDL to be a trash collector.

Depending on your community’s training program, it could take you less than a month to complete your garbage collection training.

However, you may also undergo other safety training, which you probably will receive compensation for when hired.

All in all, the amount of time you spend in training doesn’t compare to other jobs, such as medical assistants, which may require more extensive schooling.

5. Inexpensive Training

In contrast to some healthcare positions, you may not have to pay much at all for your CDL training to become a trash collector.

All or a part of the cost may even be furnished by your employer.

The largest training expenses you may incur would be if you decide to sign up for formal CDL classroom or behind-the-wheel instruction beyond what your employer provides.

Otherwise, you may just have to pay the yearly CDL renewal fee to continue operating a garbage truck.

6. Easier Than In Past

Some municipalities now have automated garbage trucks.

The mechanical arms from the back of the vehicle will pick up the trash and recyclable containers.

The driver does not have to leave the vehicle in this case.

If you are fortunate enough to live in a community like this, it could provide you with a way to make a living that does not take a toll on your body.

Many locations, however, may still require you to lift, move and dump trash containers.

7. Advancement Opportunities

If you live in a large community, you might have the chance to become a garbage collection supervisor.

A team of people would then report to you.

You also might have the chance to start your own waste management company if you move to an area that doesn’t have public service.

8. Chance to See Daylight

People that work in an industrial plant, an office, or in any other indoor job may not have the chance to see daylight.

You would work outside as a trash collector all day long.

This may benefit you if you suffered from seasonal depression because of deficient sunlight levels in the past. 

9. Meet People and Pets

Not everyone will be outside when you collect their trash.

However, you probably will have chances to interact with people or pets.

Meeting people or pets may only happen if you have a reason to move out of the truck though. 

Cons of Being a Garbage Collector

1. Slow Hiring Process

When applying for local government jobs, you may undergo a stricter background check process than if working for private companies.

What is more, you may have to wait until after the investigation of your driving record.

The time it takes to become hired will vary, especially if you also have to take a pre-employment drug test.

2. Sometimes Physically Demanding

Some communities still do not have the automated garbage container lift arms on the trucks.

In this case, the work may wear out your body and hurt your feet after spending long hours lifting heavy objects and standing or walking all day.

Make sure you wear shoes with strong arch support and follow proper lifting instructions provided to you by your employer.

3. Potentially Hazardous

Sharp objects could fall out of the trash containers and stab you.

Heavy items could also land on your foot and crush it.

Those are just a couple of the hazards you might encounter.

Road accidents could occur too because of your frequent starting and stopping.

Some people may back into you, or you could back into a parked car.

Liquids could also seep out of garbage bags and cause slips and falls – if not you, people walking by could have a pedestrian accident.

If you must lift heavy trash items, you could hurt yourself if you do not lift with your legs instead of your back.

4. Unsanitary Work Conditions

For instance, you might encounter maggots, rats, insects, and bacteria.

Breathing in those contaminants could make you sick.

Animal bites could carry an infectious disease too.

You probably will want to wear a mask while you collect people’s trash.

If you can, try to find a respirator.

Do not worry about looking “ridiculous” either if you choose to cover your face and prevent yourself from breathing in contaminants.

Your safety is more important than worrying about other people laughing at you.

5. Exposure to Toxic Chemicals

Some people do not realize they should not throw cleaning supply containers in the trash.

You could unintentionally breathe in bleach, for instance.

Other residents might throw empty bug spray containers into the trash as well, and you can accidentally inhale those fumes.

Worse yet, you could also accidentally spray yourself in the eye.

Sometimes toxic chemicals also cause skin burns, rashes, or allergic reactions.

You must make sure you wear all the personal protective equipment offered to you—gloves, safety glasses, and vests along with safety shoes.

6. Animal Attacks

Some vermin, such as mice or rats, could bite or scratch you.

Larger animals, such as bears, might climb into your truck’s trash bin if you are working a rural route.

If they do not attack you, they may at least scare you, or you may scare them.

At the least, intruding animals could make a huge mess you will have to clean up after you have managed to get rid of them.

7. Extra Training Expensive

Many variables affect whether you will have to pay for your CDL training to work as a garbage collector.

Oftentimes, your municipality will pay for the cost of your training.

However, if they do not, this expense may add up to $3,000-$8,000.

If you decide to start your own private waste company, that may also require additional licensing fees, including the ones required to start a business in most states.

8. May Seem Isolating 

If you do not have any need to leave your truck, you might feel isolated.

This is often the case with trash collectors who have automated lift arms.

You may only have to leave your truck, in this case, if you see an obstruction in the road.

Otherwise, you might not see or talk to people at all. 

Pros and Cons of Being a Garbage Collector – Summary Table

Pros of Being a Garbage CollectorCons of Being a Garbage Collector
1. Job Stability1. Slow Hiring Process
2. Always a Need2. Sometimes Physically Demanding
3. Decent Salary3. Potentially Hazardous
4. Short Training Periods4. Unsanitary Work Conditions
5. Inexpensive Training5. Exposure to Toxic Chemicals
6. Easier Than In Past6. Animal Attacks
7. Advancement Opportunities7. Extra Training Expensive
8. Chance to See Daylight8. May Seem Isolating 
9. Meet People and Pets

Should You Become a Garbage Collector?

If you need a job that provides you with a steady income, becoming a garbage collector could be your answer.

You will not find many jobs that pay as much as this profession does that allow you to just train on the job.

On the other hand, you might not want to take the risk of accidents and injuries or becoming sick because of the contamination.

You do at least to be outside every day, however, which you might like. 

Jamie Willis
Career Specialist at BecomeopediaHi, my name is Jamie Willis, and I have been helping students find their perfect internships and education paths for the last ten years. It is a passion of mine, and there really is nothing better than seeing students of mine succeed with further studies.

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