Waste collector

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Waste collectors at work in France

A waste collector, sanitation worker, dustman, binman (in the UK) or garbageman (in the US) is a person employed by a public or private enterprise to collect and remove waste (refuse) and recyclables from residential, commercial, industrial or other collection site for further processing and waste disposal. Specialised waste collection vehicles featuring an array of automated functions are often deployed to assist waste collectors in reducing collection and transport time and for protection from exposure. Waste and recycling pickup work is physically demanding and usually exposes workers to an occupational hazard.


Statistics show that waste collection is one of the most dangerous jobs, at times more dangerous than police work, but consistently less dangerous than commercial fishing and ranch and farm work. On-the-job hazards include broken glass, medical waste such as syringes, caustic chemicals, falling objects from overloaded containers, diseases that may accompany solid waste, asbestos, dog attacks and pests, inhaling dust, smoke and chemical fumes, inclement weather, traffic accidents, and unpleasant odors that can make someone physically sick.[1][2]

Scavengers and recyclers[edit]

In many developing countries, the first people to tackle the waste collection are pickers (scavengers) working in the informal economy, i.e. they may be self-financing through recycling, repairing, and reselling. Examples include the bottley-wallah, recycler of many sorts of materials in India, castes such as the Zabbaleen in Egypt, or tip scavenger groups in Brazil such as documented in the film Hauling.

In India people performing manual labour as sanitation workers are also called manual scavengers.

Regional names[edit]

Many varieties of English have a range of names for waste collectors, from formal job titles for municipal employees, to colloquial and regional terms.

Notable individuals[edit]

  • Eugène Poubelle, French official, who ordered in 1884 that all Paris landlords supply their tenants with covered garbage containers. His name became the standard French term for a garbage can (waste bin.)

Former waste collectors[edit]

Fictional waste collectors[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The 15 Most Dangerous Jobs In America".
  2. ^ "The 10 Most Dangerous Jobs in America - Risk Management Monitor".
  3. ^ Note that the Australian term "garbo" stems from a now-disused street cry used by garbagemen during the early 20th century. "The silence of the bottle-oh". The Sydney Morning Herald. Sydney, NSW. 15 December 1951. p. 2.
  4. ^ Note that the British term "dustman" stems from the Victorian era, when men would collect the dust - ashes and cinders - created by the many tons of fossil fuels burned in cooking ranges at the time. Victorian London
  5. ^ "I found great synonyms for "sanitation engineer" on the new Thesaurus.com!".
  6. ^ Sun, Baltimore. "Welcome to the MMA Insider blog on baltimoresun.com".
  7. ^ "Refuse trucks on film". April 2010. Retrieved 13 September 2010.
  8. ^ "My Dad, the Garbage Man/Poor Muffy".

Further reading[edit]