How to Become a Garbage Collector (With Average Salary)

Updated 27 June 2023

A garbage collector, also known as a refuse or rubbish collector, gathers and transports waste to a landfill or recycling centre. They often gain employment with waste management companies or local councils. Understanding how to become a rubbish collector can help you identify what you may require to pursue this role.

In this article, we discuss what a rubbish collector is, show you how to become one, list their average salary, discuss their career progression, and provide a list of related jobs for you to consider.

What is a rubbish or garbage collector?

A rubbish collector is a professional who gathers waste from residential, commercial and industrial locations. They gather bins and compress rubbish by operating specialised waste vehicles. They may collect many materials, from general waste to recyclable cardboard. Garbage collectors who work for city councils often operate street cleaning machinery and collect rubbish on foot.

The type of vehicle they operate or the rubbish they collect may determine their responsibilities. For example, a rubbish collector who gathers recyclable waste usually unloads the material at a recycling centre. A garbage collector who gathers general waste may deliver the rubbish to a designated landfill site.

How to become a rubbish collector

Below, you can find some steps for becoming a rubbish or garbage collector:

1. Gain an appropriate licence

Depending on the employer or job position, a driver's licence may be the minimum requirement for becoming a rubbish collector. Waste collecting careers that involve driving waste trucks can require a vehicle licence appropriate to the truck. Rubbish truck drivers may require a licence to operate a heavy-rigid or medium-rigid vehicle.

2. Consider a traineeship

Some councils may provide traineeships in waste collection. A traineeship usually takes six months or one year to complete and can provide you with the practical skills necessary for the role. You can learn how to navigate routes, compact waste and complete your tasks safely.

3. Apply for a refuse-collecting job

Once you have the necessary licensing, you can apply for a job. You might gain employment with local councils or private waste collection companies. To find opportunities, check online job listings.

Typical duties of a rubbish collector

Some of the typical duties and responsibilities of a rubbish or garbage collector include:

  • vehicle maintenance

  • cleaning vehicles

  • servicing public bins and cleaning them

  • collecting cardboard waste

  • gathering general waste from residential areas

  • collecting building rubbish from large skip bins

  • ensuring workplace safety when navigating streets and suburbs

  • disposing of waste at collection centres and landfills

  • handling hazardous materials

  • working with other rubbish collectors

  • operating recycling trucks and rubbish collection trucks

  • lifting heavy objects, such as bins or rubbish bags.

Related: What Does a Dump Truck Operator Do? (And How to Become One)

Average national salary

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at the time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.

The national average salary of a rubbish or garbage collector is $67,755 per year. Your salary may vary depending on where you live and your experience level. The demand for waste collectors may differ between states. States and cities with a high demand for waste collectors might provide a more competitive salary.

Below, you can find the average national salary of a waste collector in different cities:

  • Malvern, VIC: $76,506 per year

  • Ballarat VIC: $75,776 per year

  • Broadmeadows, VIC: $68,702 per year

  • Perth, WA: $68,530 per year

  • Hobart, TAS: $54,784 per year

Career progression

As a rubbish collector, you need to learn the skills and industry knowledge to gain employment in a waste-management role. Waste collection companies and local councils often employ a waste manager to oversee rubbish collection operations. These operations can include vehicle maintenance, employee rosters, route management and waste disposal.

A managerial role may also provide you with a higher salary. The national average salary of a waste manager is $124,593 per year. To become a waste manager, you may require extensive work experience or a formal qualification, such as a diploma in waste management.

Related: What Does a Waste Manager Do? (With Steps Guide and Skills)

Rubbish or garbage collector skills

Here are some of the typical skills that may help you complete the responsibilities of a rubbish collector:

Customer service

If you're a rubbish collector employed by a city council, you may interact with people regularly. Being friendly and having strong customer service skills can improve public cooperation and help you represent your council with professionalism. To improve your customer service skills, you can consider maintaining a positive mindset and treating customers with respect.


As a rubbish collector, you may work as part of a team. The team usually includes a driver and one to two other team members. You may work together to efficiently and safely collect residential and commercial bins. Teamwork can help you coordinate with team members and ensure everyone understands their responsibilities. You can improve your teamwork by practising communication habits, such as active listening, or social habits, such as being considerate and understanding towards others.

Related: The Best Teamwork Skills for a Resume (With Examples)

Physical fitness

As a refuse collector, you may complete your responsibilities on foot. Depending on the area where you operate, you may walk several kilometres and dispose of rubbish in pre-determined locations. If you're collecting rubbish in a truck, you may regularly lift heavy rubbish bags or bins. To improve your physical fitness, you can consider a healthy diet and performing regular exercise.

Time management

Time management can help you complete routes on schedule. As a rubbish collector, you may have several locations that require you to be there at a designated time. Keeping track of time and managing a schedule of multiple stops can ensure you complete your tasks with professionalism and effectiveness. To improve your time management skills, you can consider scheduling activities in your day and determining a specific time to complete them.


As a rubbish or garbage collector, you may regularly complete your tasks around pedestrians and vehicles. By being aware of your surroundings, you can perform your role safely. Awareness can also help you identify dangerous objects, such as batteries and gas canisters that can't enter a landfill or recycling centre. You can improve your awareness by gaining adequate rest, which may help you maintain your focus and concentration.

Careers with transferable skills

Many careers may have transferable skills in waste collection. By reviewing some of the following careers, you may discover a role that interests you and provides a significant average salary. Some alternative careers may also provide you with the knowledge to enter a managerial role in the waste industry.

Below, you can find several careers, along with their average national salary and typical responsibilities:

1. Sorter

Find sorter jobs

National average salary: $52,917 per year

Primary duties: A sorter often works in waste management facilities and separates materials for recycling or disposal. The materials they identify and remove can depend on their employment. For example, a brick quarry may receive building rubble and hire sorters to separate bricks from other materials, such as steel and plastic.

2. Loader operator

Find loader operator jobs

National average salary: $53,683 per year

Primary duties: A loader operator is a professional who has a license to drive and operate a loader. They may gain employment in construction companies, landfill sites and waste collection sites. A loader operator who works in a waste centre may collect rubbish and move it to a designated area. Civil construction loader operators typically flatten roads, move materials and dig trenches. They may also work with other machine operators, such as graders or excavators.

Related: What Does a Heavy Machine Operator Do? (With Salary)

3. Recycling worker

Find recycling worker jobs

National average salary: $55,404 per year

Primary duties: A recycling worker has similar responsibilities to a sorter, except they work in a recycling centre. They may gain employment in several facilities that recycle materials such as steel, cardboard, paper and aluminium. Their responsibilities can include identifying, transporting and packaging recyclable materials.

4. Route manager

Find route manager jobs

National average salary: $75,500 per year

Primary duties: A route manager is a professional who works with local councils that clean streets or collect waste. They may research the distance of a route and the amount of traffic to determine the most effective methods of cleaning or collecting. Route managers may also schedule these public services to provide the least amount of disturbance to public travel.

5. Truck driver

Find truck driver jobs

National average salary: $78,148 per year

Primary duties: A truck driver is a professional who has a license to drive a heavy vehicle. Their primary responsibility is usually transporting materials or goods. They may gain employment with postal services, delivery companies, distribution centres and manufacturing companies. Depending on their license, they may drive a heavy rigid, light rigid or multi-combination heavy vehicle.

Related: How to Become a Truck Driver (With Step-by-Step Guide)

6. Dump truck driver

Find dump truck driver jobs

National average salary: $86,909 per year

Primary duties: A dump truck driver usually has a heavy rigid vehicle license that allows them to operate dump trucks. Dump truck drivers typically work for civil construction companies, mine sites and waste facilities. Their primary responsibility usually involves transporting large quantities of earth or minerals.

Related: Pros and Cons of a Dump Truck Driver Job (with Examples)


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