Skip to main content

Recycling Consultant

Does it drive you crazy when someone tosses a pop can into the garbage? Do you find yourself removing paper from the trash can at your school or office, and moving it to the recycling bin?

If you're passionate about recycling, recycling consulting could be the job for you.

Some recycling consultants work for the government, where they help local government offices deal with their recyclable waste. They may also advise the construction sector on recycling programs.

Other recycling consultants work for themselves and are hired by private companies to show the companies how to sell their recyclable materials.

Companies use and produce a lot of different materials -- from paper and plastic to wood and metal. A lot of these materials can be recycled and reused by other businesses. However, often companies don't know what to do with the materials when they're finished with them. This is where recycling consultants come in.

Recycling consultants know what materials are worth in the marketplace at any given time. They act as a middleperson between the company selling the materials and the buying company. Instead of just throwing away materials, the materials are reused and the selling company earns some cash.

In the private sphere, businesses hire recycling consultants to save their companies money. Therefore, the prices companies can get for goods (plastic, metal, etc.) affect the outlook for recycling consultants, says David Kirkpatrick. He's the founder of an environmental economic development company in Durham, North Carolina, called KirkWorks.

"The ups and downs of commodity prices really affect the whole industry," he says.

However, with rising concerns about shrinking landfill sites, and the need to be environmentally friendly, the job outlook for recycling consultants appears strong.

"The great thing about this career, and consulting in general, is that you write your own schedule, and you have more flexibility than you would if you worked for someone else full time," says Kirkpatrick. "On the other hand, there is less security. If you work really hard, and make smart business decisions, then it all pays off."

Because of the nature of consulting -- where many consultants are self-employed -- income levels vary. Those working for the government generally make a bit more, says Kirkpatrick.

"Folks with expertise in recycling consulting, or engineering and design make anywhere from $35,000 to $50,000 annually," he says.

Recycling consultants may also go by the name of waste consultants, zerowaste consultants, environmental consultants, or recycling or waste reduction coordinators. Consultants can also specialize in a particular area, such as building materials, or food or medical waste.

The career is a fairly new one. It's getting hard to imagine now, but there was a time not long ago when recycling wasn't widely done and everything went to the landfill. With the huge awareness and push for recycling, that has changed.

A university degree in a field like environmental studies can lead to a career in recycling consulting. "You don't have to have an engineering degree, but some university education in science or sustainability or education will help you get to the interview stage," says Mairi Welman. She's deputy executive director of a recycling council.

"Don't go into [this career] if money is your primary motivator," advises Welman. "But if you want to have a clear conscience at the end of the day, and know that you did something in some small way to help our planet, then this might be the job for you."

Experience at a recycling firm will help people interested in this career path. But what type of personality traits and skills should recycling consultants have?

"They need to have strong analytical skills, the ability to seek and find information and the talent to convince others to accept their solutions," says Michele Nestor. She's president of Nestor Resources, Inc., a Pennsylvania-based waste and recycling consulting firm.

"You could say that we are sales people at heart because we have to sell our skills and our ideas to stay in business,' she adds. "An often overlooked skill of many entering any technical field is the ability to write. Samples of a job candidate's writing are often required by many consulting firms these days."

Nestor adds that apart from having technical skills, good people and communication skills are very important, because in this business, like so many, word spreads about your work.

"There is an old adage that your reputation precedes you," says Nestor. "That couldn't be truer than in the consulting business. Consultants in general... build their businesses on referrals... and the environmental field is no different."


Nestor Resources, Inc.
Read about a private American company that deals in waste and recycling consulting

Institute for Local Self-Reliance
Learn about an organization, which helps communities convert "waste" into valuable resources

Global Recycling Network
Find links and information on recycling various materials

Bureau of International Recycling
Learn more about the recycling industry

Back to Career Cluster


  • Email Support

  • 1-800-GO-TO-XAP (1-800-468-6927)
    From outside the U.S., please call +1 (424) 750-3900


Powered by XAP

OCAP believes that financial literacy and understanding the financial aid process are critical aspects of college planning and student success. OCAP staff who work with students, parents, educators and community partners in the areas of personal finance education, state and federal financial aid, and student loan management do not provide financial, investment, legal, and/or tax advice. This website and all information provided is for general educational purposes only, and is not intended to be construed as financial, investment, legal, and/or tax advice.