Recycling industry poised for hiring

Workers already in short supply, study reports

Massachusetts’ companies in the recycling industry plan to boost their hiring in the next two years and many are already struggling to fill jobs, according to a new report by SkillWorks, a nonprofit that funds workforce initiatives.

Private recycling companies, including haulers, salvage, and demolition crews, expect to increase hiring 15 percent in the next two years and add about 1,200 new workers, the report said. Recycling jobs in the public sector are expected to grow 5 percent. Many of the new jobs will be low-paying, low-skill work.

“Not any one company or industry is adding thousands’’ of jobs, said SkillWorks program officer Patricia Maguire. “But recycling, clean energy and water operations will be adding jobs, and taken all together, it adds up to a good amount.’’


The industry is expected to grow as the economy improves and consumers step up purchases, which leads to an increase in recycling. The projected job growth is also because of an industry-wide anticipation of new regulations that will ban some materials, such as carpeting, from landfills. Industry leaders said such rules spur innovation and the creation of new uses for what was formerly trash could lead to more jobs.

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Dan Costello, president of Costello Dismantling Co., Inc., a salvage company in Middleborough and one of the co-sponsors of the report, said he currently has several job openings he has had difficulty filling.

“Certainly the work is demanding physically, but it’s also very rewarding,’’ Costello said. “We find that its more and more difficult to attract younger workers to these industries. Our workforce is getting old and the replacements are very hard to find.’’

The recycling industry already employees nearly 14,000 people in Massachusetts at more than 2,000 recycling-related companies, according to the report. The survey was paid for with public and private grants, including funding from companies in the recycling industry.

More than 100 private companies were surveyed. Many were small, employing fewer than 10 workers, and for some, the business involved more than recycling, such as collecting garbage as well as recyclables. Others reused old products or turned recycled goods into new products.


The fastest-growing occupations in the private sector side of the industry will be general laborers, followed by sales and customer service staff, and then transportation workers. Management positions are also expected to grow during the same period.

The report did not assess industry wages. However, 62 percent of the private sector employers surveyed for the report said they were having either “great difficulty’’ or “some difficulty’’ finding employees with basic professional skills, such as a work ethic, professional responsibility, and reliability. Forty-five percent said they were having “some difficulty’’ finding employees with the qualifications and adequate work experience.

The study also offers ideas about ways the state can support the industry’s development, including closer partnerships with the state’s workforce training programs and creation of a regional economic development strategy.

Megan Woolhouse can be reached at