Share this page

Select an icon:

Job Photographs

  • A Recycling Operative standing by a conveyor belt containing waste.

  • Recycling Operative

Recycling Operative


Recycling operatives work on conveyor belts sorting recyclable materials. They make sure that the materials don't become mixed.

Work Activities

As a Recycling Operative, you will work in factories. You sort through recycled household waste and separate each type so that they aren't mixed.

You'll work on conveyer belts. The types of material you separate include tin cans, paper and cardboard, glass and certain plastics.

Operatives have to stick to all health and safety rules. You may need to wear safety clothing, such as steel toecap boots.

In this job, you might need to be on your feet for a long part of the working day. Working conditions can be dirty, dusty and noisy.

Being able to read, write and speak Welsh may be an advantage when you’re looking for work in Wales.

Personal Qualities and Skills

To become a Recycling Operative, you'll need to:

  • be able to work quickly
  • pay attention to detail
  • work well in a team
  • be reasonably fit
  • follow health and safety rules

This job might not be suitable for people who have skin conditions, such as eczema, or breathing complaints, such as asthma.

Pay and Opportunities


The pay rates given below are approximate.

  • Starting: £17,500 - £18,000
  • With experience: £18,500 - £20,500
  • Senior Recycling Operatives earn £22,000 - £24,000

Hours of work

Recycling Operatives work around 40 hours a week. However, in some areas, the working week can be longer than 40 hours. Shift work is the usual working method. Weekend work and work on public holidays might also be required. Overtime may be available.

Where could I work?

Employers are waste management companies and local authorities. Opportunities for Recycling Operatives occur in towns and cities throughout the UK.

Where are vacancies advertised?

Vacancies are advertised on all the major job boards, on Find a Job, and at Jobcentre Plus.

Vacancies might also be advertised on the websites of local authorities, specialist recruitment agencies and waste management organisations.

GreenJobs is a job board aimed at people interested in green careers:

Entry Routes and Training


You won't need formal qualifications to become a Recycling Operative, but basic numeracy and literacy skills will be expected.

An Intermediate or Advanced Level Apprenticeship is a great place to start. Take a look at our information article 'Apprenticeships – How do I apply', for more details about applying for apprenticeship positions.


Your training will be on the job and might include health and safety, safe handling techniques, first aid or control of hazardous substances (COSHH).


With experience, it may be possible to become a Team Leader or Supervisor.

Work Experience

Previous experience working on conveyer belts or in packing work would be really useful for this career.


To get onto an Intermediate or Advanced Level Apprenticeship, you’ll usually need five GCSEs at grade C/4 or above, possibly including English and maths.

Adult Opportunities

Age limits

It is illegal for any organisation to set age limits for entry to employment, education or training, unless they can show there is a real need to have these limits.


Skills gained from work on conveyer belts or in packing work will be useful for entry to this career. However, for most positions, you won't need any experience.

Further Information


Local government vacancies


myjobscotland: Scottish local government vacancies

Scottish enquiries






Energy & Utility Skills

Skills for the gas, power, waste management and water industries

Address: Friars Gate, 1011 Stratford Road, Shirley, Solihull B90 4BN

Tel: 0845 0779922



Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM)

Address: 9 Saxon Court, St Peter's Gardens, Marefair, Northampton NN1 1SX

Tel: 01604 620426



Waste Management Industry Training and Advisory Board (WAMITAB)

Address: Peterbridge House, 3 The Lakes, Northampton NN4 7HE

Tel: 01604 231950



Careers Wales - Welsh Apprenticeships

Tel: 0800 028 4844


Croeso i Gyrfa Cymru

Dewiswch iaith


Welcome to Careers Wales

Please select your language