Recycling officers develop, run and promote recycling schemes and work on sustainable initiatives

As a recycling officer, you'll manage local recycling schemes and plan and develop waste reduction and reuse policies. You may also help to create and deliver educational programmes and organise community, school and media liaison initiatives.

You might work for a local authority such as a county, district, borough or metropolitan council in a relevant department, such as environmental services, waste management or community services. Alternatively, you could work in the private sector for recycling contractors or environmental charities.


As a recycling officer, you'll need to:

  • encourage households and businesses to recycle more
  • initiate new local recycling schemes
  • manage, monitor, improve and expand existing schemes, collection services and facilities, e.g. recycling banks, kerbside collections and composting
  • strategically plan for the management and development of recycling and find new ways to meet local and national targets,
  • work to 'best practice' schemes and guidelines to maximise resources and reduce costs
  • collect data, compile statistics and draft reports on local waste, recycling and reuse tonnage
  • deal with customer enquiries and investigate collection issues and complaints
  • manage budgets, assess tenders and prepare funding bids
  • engage with and advise local community groups on carrying out their recycling and reducing waste
  • prepare, manage and monitor recycling contracts and liaise with contractors over collection issues
  • manage and promote initiatives through advertising and publicity campaigns
  • advise local businesses on waste disposal and recycling initiatives
  • keep abreast of, and comply with, current recycling legislation
  • recruit and train volunteers in community organisations.


  • Your starting salary as a recycling officer is likely to be around £22,500.
  • Experienced recycling officers may earn between £25,000 and £40,000.
  • In certain senior-level roles, such as team leader, you could earn up to and above £45,000.

Salaries vary depending on your experience, location and the size and type of organisation you work for. Salaries in some community organisations are likely to be at the lower end of the scale.

A car allowance is common.

Income figures are intended as a guide only.

Working hours

You'll generally work a standard 37-hour week, Monday to Friday, with some extra hours and weekend work necessary for special events. Flexible working is often possible in local government departments.

What to expect

  • You could work in an office or at a waste recycling site. If you work in an office, you will also spend time inspecting recycling plants, attending meetings and giving presentations to schools and community groups. In community organisations, time will be spent working with volunteers.
  • The role involves contact with a range of people, from young children to councillors and chief executive officers.
  • Most recycling officers are employed by local authorities, with a small number employed in the private or charity sector.
  • You may need to wear safety clothing and handle safety equipment while on site.
  • This is a varied, challenging and visible role, which may involve media contact and public speaking. However, the demands of specific jobs vary according to local and national policy and type of authority. Generally, recycling officer roles involve a high degree of autonomy.
  • Travel within a working day can be frequent if you have to visit different sites and you will need access to a car. You may spend some time working outdoors.


You don't need a degree or HND to become a recycling officer. Experience, personal qualities and an interest in and knowledge of current environmental, waste management and recycling issues are considered as important as academic qualifications.

However, some employers may look for degrees or HNDs. Relevant subjects include:

  • biology
  • chemistry
  • civil or structural engineering
  • earth sciences
  • environmental science, either biological or physical
  • materials science/technology.

A pre-entry postgraduate qualification is not essential but may be helpful, particularly in the area of waste or environmental management. Search postgraduate courses in waste management.

The Chartered Institute of Waste Management (CIWM) offers a range of recycling and waste management qualifications, apprenticeships and training programmes at different levels. See CIWM (WAMITAB) Qualifications for details.


You'll need to have:

  • practical problem-solving ability
  • strong communication, customer service and interpersonal skills
  • presentation skills
  • negotiation skills
  • creative thinking for creating recycling and reuse promotion campaigns
  • the ability to manage pressure, work to deadlines and prioritise your workload
  • organisational and planning skills
  • the ability to use your initiative and to work independently
  • teamworking skills
  • attention to detail
  • a flexible approach to work
  • administration and general office skills
  • numerical and IT skills
  • an awareness of environmental issues, including an understanding of waste and recycling issues, and a willingness to keep up with relevant legislation
  • a driving licence and access to a car - is essential for many recycling officer posts.

Work experience

Experience in the waste industry or on local recycling or environmental projects, either paid or voluntary, is useful. Getting experience working for your local authority, especially within the recycling department, will be particularly helpful for your application.

Experience in dealing with customers and/or members of the public and office work is also useful.

You need to show that you're interested in recycling and committed to reducing waste. Schemes such as the Duke of Edinburgh's Award and The Conservation Volunteers (TCV) can provide you with valuable experience in conservation, recycling and environmental projects.

Student membership of a relevant organisation or professional institution, such as CIWM, can provide networking opportunities. If you're studying for a relevant degree, you could choose a dissertation or assignment that is linked to an employer. This can help with building contacts and finding opportunities to gain experience.

Find out more about the different kinds of work experience and internships that are available.


Local authorities are a major employer of recycling officers. Other types of employers include:

  • community recycling organisations - good opportunities for gaining entry-level experience
  • educational institutions
  • environmental organisations
  • national consultancy firms - advice on environmental, workplace equipment and occupational health and safety risks
  • private waste management companies - handling waste and recycling for their clients
  • recycling charities and not-for-profit organisations
  • regulatory agencies - such as the Environment Agency.

Look for job vacancies at:

Jobs may also be advertised on local authority websites.

Professional development

Training is usually carried out on the job under the supervision of more experienced colleagues. This can be combined with external courses and qualifications, such as those provided by CIWM.

The CIWM runs a Structured Learning and Development (SLD) programme. This flexible scheme of professional training helps you develop the practical skills and depth of knowledge needed when preparing for chartered waster manager status. See the CIWM website for more information on the criteria for becoming a chartered waste manager.

Continuing professional development (CPD) is important and members of CIWM are expected to carry out a minimum of 30 hours of CPD each year. This can be made up of a variety of activities including attending seminars, courses, events and conferences, supervised research, technical writing or structured reading of relevant trade press.

The University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) runs the Centre for Waste Management, which carries out research and offers consultancy services. The centre also delivers training courses that are useful for professional development, including a recycling managers' training course.

If you're interested in undertaking postgraduate study in waste management, your employer may support you and possibly provide some funding.

Career prospects

Growth in this sector is strong, as local authorities and private companies strive to comply with national waste management requirements and global targets. There is a structured career path and the most common way to progress is to move into a management role and then to increase your level of seniority. 

As recycling officers generally work within a team specialising in one particular aspect of the role, such as enforcement or community education, you could choose to move from this into a broader waste management role. Another option is to move into a senior operational role, where you'll have a greater focus on policy.

Keeping up to date with changes in legislation and industry developments, through resources such as the ENDS Report and, can help you stay informed and identify new opportunities for career development.

With much of the recycling collection contracted out to private companies, private consultancy is a growing field. With substantial experience, it may also be possible to move into freelance environmental consultancy work.

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