Front view of garbage bin being loaded into truck

The solid waste industry (Waste Management and Remediation, NAICS 562external icon) consists of 3 groups: Collection; Treatment and Disposal; and Other Waste Remediation Services. In 2013, approximately 518,000 workers were employed in the solid waste industry with about 377,600 in private industry. About 72,500 of the private waste industry employees are classified as Refuse and Recyclable Materials Collectors (SOC 53‒7080). An additional 49,000 collectors are employed by local government agencies.

Back view of man putting bags of garbage into dumpster

Solid waste industry workers can be injured or killed if they are struck by vehicles or other mobile equipment, involved in a crash or other motor vehicle incident, or caught in or compressed by equipment or objects. They work outdoors in all kinds of weather and are at risk of injury from lifting materials. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, public sector workers who collect refuse and recyclable material experienced a days-away-from work incidence rate approximately 4 times greaterpdf iconexternal icon than the incidence rate for this occupation in the private sector. They can also be exposed to microorganisms, chemicals such as hydrogen sulfide, diesel exhaust, and other airborne contaminants at landfills.

The National Occupational Research Agenda

The National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA) is a partnership program that NIOSH maintains with academia, labor, industry, and community organizations to set national research and intervention goals for occupational safety and health. The national agenda is developed and implemented through the NORA Sector Councils. The Services Sector has goals to eliminate occupational diseases, injuries, and fatalities among the 65 million persons working in service industries through a focused program of research and prevention. To view the agenda for the Services Sector, including the Solid Waste Industry, visit

Learn how solid waste industry workers can take better measures to prevent diseases, injuries, and fatalities.

Page last reviewed: July 7, 2013