What does a Sanitation Worker do?

Felicia Dye

Sanitation work is a term commonly used to describe tasks that involve disposing of or recycling waste in a manner that is hygienic and that aims to prevent disease. There are many subcategories and jobs that are considered part of the sanitation industry. For example, a sanitation worker may be employed by a city to collect trash, or he may be employed by a private company to treat wastewater.

A sanitation worker might be responsible for residential trash disposal.
A sanitation worker might be responsible for residential trash disposal.

Trash collectors are employed in many cities around the world. This type of sanitation worker is generally responsible for helping households and businesses dispose of garbage. He does this by going from place to place and taking away unwanted goods. Generally, he identifies what is unwanted because such items will be left in a particular place, in particular receptacles, on particular days. A trash collector may also physically load garbage into the garbage vehicle or drive such a vehicle.

Some sanitation workers collect garbage within a community.
Some sanitation workers collect garbage within a community.

In some instances, garbage is not collected from people’s homes or businesses. In rural areas, it is common for people to haul their trash to a collection site. A person who works there is generally responsible for ensuring that people adhere to the rules and regulations of the site. For example, he may be responsible for preventing the disposal of hazardous waste and for ensuring that people place certain types of garbage in certain collection bins.

Sewage treatment plants offer different sanitation jobs.
Sewage treatment plants offer different sanitation jobs.

Once trash is collected, it is commonly sent to a landfill. This is a place where massive amounts of garbage are usually placed in the ground. Since a landfill is a complex facility, there are many sanitation jobs and duties at the site.

Sanitation workers might use bulldozers to deal with garbage at a landfill.
Sanitation workers might use bulldozers to deal with garbage at a landfill.

For example, landfills or laws may prohibit the dumping of certain items, and these items are often separated from the acceptable garbage. A sanitation worker must then take the prohibited items to an area where they can be properly dealt with. Another worker at the same landfill may be responsible for using machines that compact, bulldoze, or recycle the garbage that is dumped.

Some waste is not collected by people, and instead, it flows to collection receptacles by way of pipes. This type of waste is often sanitized so that the water contained in it can be reused. A sanitation worker in this area of the industry may be responsible for pumping out septic systems that are blocked or full. He may also be responsible for operating or overseeing the machines at a wastewater facility.

A sanitation worker disposes of recycling materials.
A sanitation worker disposes of recycling materials.

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Discussion Comments


@JimmyT - Although people do not see what you have stated as being realistic, it is true as garbage has to go somewhere or else it can hurt the environment, and thus hurt people directly.

Although a sanitation job may not be desirable for a person, there is always a demand for people to fill these positions.

As the world population grows, the amount of garbage will also, thus there will always be more jobs created in the sanitation sector.

What I am really wondering though is how much a sanitation worker gets paid? I figure that they would get paid more in a bigger city, like New York City, than in a small village, but that is merely an assumption and I am curious about the pay.


@Emilski - I have studied history in college and I can say that historically people's age longevity has gone up over the centuries due to two things, improvement in healthcare, and better sanitation and a sanitation worker has a lot to do with that.

People naturally produce a lot of garbage and this is unavoidable. Because of this fact, the garbage needs to be disposed of somewhere, so it does not clutter the streets.

If the garbage is not disposed of at a set site, then it can cause problems, such as creating unsanitary conditions that can cause disease or could even get into drinking water.

Back in the middle ages, people would regularly throw garbage in the river, which was also what people drank out of. This led to a lower life expectancy and because of the lack of proper sanitation, garbage was hard to dispose of and it would just be thrown in the streets.


@TreeMan - I agree. People do not realize that sanitation workers do more than pick up garbage, as they also have to sort through all the garbage, as well as deal with the recycling issues in some instances.

I think that people do not give sanitation workers enough credit as they have to do a job that absolutely no one wants to do, that is deal with garbage, which is very undesirable, as well as very unsanitary, but it needs to be done in order to ensure that the streets are clean and that disease does not spread due to issues with waste disposal.


I really feel like sanitation workers are looked down upon by a lot of people simply due to the fact that they are just seen as people that pick up garbage.

Despite the job title there is a lot of work that goes into what a sanitation worker does as they have to be able to pick up and dispose of the garbage, if not it would be a very messy world, as well as know how to properly dispose of hazardous waste in a safe manner as to not let it affect other people.

This job can be a lot harder than what one would think, because there are a lot of pieces of garbage that can be labeled as being in a grey area as far as disposal goes and a sanitation worker has to sometimes make a judgment call to make sure that the waste is properly disposed of so it does not hurt the environment or other people.

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