This article appeared in the February 2023 issue of Resource Recycling. Subscribe today for access to all print content.


Refuse and recyclable material collectors had the seventh-deadliest job in the U.S. in 2021, an improvement over the previous year’s sixth place.

According to data collected by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics in the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, refuse and recyclable material collectors had a fatal injury rate of 27.9 per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers, down from 33.1 in 2020.

This change came during a year that saw overall fatal injuries among full-time equivalent (FTE) workers across all sectors increase by 8.9%, from 3.4 fatalities per 100,000 workers in 2020 to 3.6 per 100,000 workers in 2021. The 2019 pre-pandemic rate was 3.5 fatal injuries per 100,000 FTE workers.

“Although we are pleased by the industry’s improvement last year, being the seventh deadliest occupation in the United States is nothing to brag about,” David Biderman, SWANA executive director and CEO said in a press release.