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PODCAST: Waste & Recycling Industry: Essential Careers During COVID and Beyond

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

The National Waste and Recycling Association (NWRA) is the voice in the nation’s capital for the waste and recycling industry, an industry that accounts for over 1 million jobs and generates a quarter of a trillion dollars in the U.S. economy.

The NWRA has 700+ member companies operating in all 50 states, including publicly-traded and privately-owned local, regional, and Fortune 500 national and international companies. The organization represents more than 70% of the private sector waste and recycling market.

NWRA’s President and CEO, Darrell Smith, and Manager of Government Affairs, Jonathan Taylor, joined the podcast to discuss the common misconceptions about careers in waste and recycling, career opportunities for veterans, and more.

“Most people think that the waste and recycling industry is small,” Darrell stated. “In fact, there are 450,000 employees in the industry, with a $28 billion payroll and supporting over 1 million related jobs.” 

Because of its sheer size, the operation is very advanced. “Other than the United States Postal Service, there is no other industry that goes to every house once or twice a week,” Darrell continued. Its impact is enormous, will always continue to grow, and is a steady industry, therefore offering job security that is hard to find in other industries.

In fact, during the current COVID-19 pandemic, the waste and recycling industry has been deemed an essential industry. “The waste and recycling employees are helping to stop the spread of the virus by keeping our streets clean,” Darrell stated.

Another misconception about the industry is the public’s conception of the waste worker. “Waste workers are dedicated, down to earth people who get the job done,” Jonathan said. “They are hardworking, very knowledgeable, and have a great deal of responsibility.”

Employees in the waste and recycling industry are responsible for an operation that requires a lot of coordination and energy. “They are skilled workers that are very valued in their company,” Darrell explained.

Military veterans are primed to succeed in this industry. “There is a great alignment between the military skills and what the industry is looking for,” Jonathan said. “The military offers certifications that are transferable to the waste industry.”

Currently, there are a variety of jobs available for veterans. The industry is facing a shortage of Drivers, especially those with a CDL license, Welders, and Diesel Mechanics - all positions that align very well with the military skill set. “We have an abundance of opportunities for (military) leaders to show what they’re made of,” Darrell said.

Darrell and Jonathan concluded the podcast by reiterating the benefits of a career in the waste and recycling industry. “The pay is better, it’s a steady industry, and it offers a lot of opportunity,” Darrell stated.

Listen to the full podcast here. To find a career in the waste and recycling industry, check out the NWRA’s website, and take a look at this infographic on the importance of the industry and its impact on our world.

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