A garbage collector performs waste pickup and removal services in residential neighborhoods, public parks, and commercial business centers. He or she controls hydraulic lifting equipment to dump refuse into the back of a garbage truck, and then drives to the appropriate disposal location. A garbage collector may also pick up recyclable goods or yard debris from peoples' homes. Most garbage collectors are employed by municipal government organizations, though some professionals work for private waste management companies that are contracted by city governments.
Garbage collectors who pick up refuse and recycling from neighborhoods often work in pairs. The driver navigates neighborhoods and operates the hydraulic lift, while the other worker steps out at each stop and affixes garbage containers to the arms of the lift. Some garbage trucks are capable of picking up large dumpsters and other waste disposal containers without the intervention of an outside helper. Rather, the driver pulls up to a dumpster, drops the lift, and manipulates levers to pick up and dump the load. At the end of a route, a garbage collector unloads his or her truck at a landfill, recycling plant, compost station, or another designated city location.
In order to perform the job well, a garbage collector typically needs to be in decent physical shape and able to employ good judgment. He or she may need to manually pick up and dump furniture, dead trees, or other unwanted objects that are left by the curb. Before a collector picks up a recycling container, he or she quickly scans the contents and removes inappropriate objects. The collector also judges the container's weight to make sure it is under the limit the lift can handle.
The requirements to become a garbage collector can vary between employers, but most workers hold high school diplomas and receive on-the-job training from experienced workers to develop basic skills. In order to operate a garbage truck, a professional may be required to obtain a commercial driver's license by completing a practical training course and passing a regional exam. Some garbage collectors, especially those who remove waste from medical facilities and industrial plants, need to complete additional training programs to earn hazardous materials handling credentials.
An experienced, successful garbage collector is often rewarded with opportunities for advancement within a municipal organization or private company. Many professionals are able to obtain office jobs, where they manage workers' schedules, sign paychecks, and perform other important administrative duties. In a managerial position, an individual may also be able to help devise more efficient waste management strategies and determine the need for new equipment, trucks, or labor.