This report offers a unique inside look at the working conditions faced by recycling workers across the United States, as well as a series of specific policy recommendations that municipal decision makers should follow to improve industry accountability and health and safety outcomes. It also includes practical recommendations for public education programs that can prevent dangerous materials from entering the recycling stream; workers are regularly exposed to used needles, dead animal carcasses, and hazardous chemicals. Recycling workers are more than twice as likely to be injured at work as the average worker. Our analysis is based on occupational health studies, OSHA reports about health and safety violations, articles from news media and industry trade publications, interviews with recycling workers, and first-hand observation of recycling work.

The findings underscore the need for urgent action to improve health and safety conditions for recycling workers. Improving the recycling sector overall is not only possible – it’s imperative for averting today’s ecological crises, and protecting the health and well-being of this important group of climate workers who protect us all.

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The report was produced by:

  • GAIA
  • Partnership for Working Families
  • MassCOSH
  • National Council for Occupational Safety and Health.