Recycling coordinators are almost exclusively employed by some level of government; they oversee recycling programs at the city, county, or state level. A limited number of recycling coordinators may find work with waste haulers that offer recycling coordination as part of their contracts to municipalities. Recycling coordinators work in communities of all sizes—from rural countywide programs to urban ones. When states first mandated recycling, larger counties that generated more waste generally were the first to hire recycling coordinators. However, as more states set and achieve higher recycling goals, smaller cities and even rural areas need someone to coordinate their growing programs. At the state level, state environmental protection agencies or community development agencies may employ coordinators to administer state grants to and advise local recycling programs all over the state. Large organizations, such as colleges or military bases, are other employers of recycling coordinators.
A first job as a recycling coordinator is most likely to be with a smaller municipal program. Most colleges have a network of career referral services for their graduates, and city or county governments with openings for recycling coordinators often use these services to advertise positions to qualified graduates. Positions at the state level may also be available. Someone with previous experience with waste management projects, issues, and operations, in addition to the right educational background, is likely to get the more sought-after positions in larger cities and state governments. You can get hands-on experience through internships, volunteering, cooperative education, summer employment, or research projects.
You can gain experience during summers off from college, or if necessary, after college by volunteering or serving an internship with a recycling program in your area. If internships aren't available, paid work at a waste facility is a way to earn money over the summer and learn the very basics of recycling. Volunteering for a waste management consulting firm or nonprofit environmental organization is another way to get practical experience with recyclables. Most colleges have their own recycling programs, and you may find part-time work during the school year in your own college's recycling program. Contact the physical plant operations department or student employment services at your school.
In most cases, the position of recycling coordinator is the top spot in the recycling program. Advancement isn't really an option, unless the coordinator moves to another, perhaps larger, municipal program, to a private employer, or in some cases, to a different field. There is a fair amount of turnover in the field because recycling coordinator positions, in many cases, are training ground for college graduates who eventually move on to other fields where they use skills they developed as recycling coordinators. Because recycling coordinators develop so many useful skills, they often find work in related fields, such as small business administration and nonprofit organizations or as government administrators.
Since many states have waste-handling projects, someone with good experience at the local level might move into a state-level job, such as recycling expert, a position in some states' waste-handling departments. Opportunities with private businesses that have in-house recycling needs or with solid waste management consultants or businesses might also constitute advancement. Finally, recycling coordinators also have the opportunity to expand their own programs. Through their efforts, a modest program with a limited staff and budget could blossom into a full-scale, profitable venture for the community. The coordinator could conceivably extend the scope of the program; improve links with state or local government officials, the public, and private business and industry; receive more funding; add staff; and otherwise increase the extent and prominence of the program.
Read Recycling Today (https://www.recyclingtoday.com) and Resource Recycling (https://www.resource-recycling.com) to learn more about the field.
Attend the Resource Recycling Conference (http://rrconference.com/) to network and participate in continuing education opportunities.
Visit https://www.indeed.com/q-Recycling-jobs.html for job listings.