Recycling Workforce Issues

Employee Turnover is Costly

Employee turnover is one of the biggest challenges any waste and recycling operator faces. Recruiting, onboarding, and training a new employee is time-consuming and expensive, whether the person is employed directly or through a staffing or workforce company. When an employee leaves, not only does the hiring process begin again, but the investment made in the former employee is lost forever.

In addition, when there’s turnover in your workforce, productivity can slow down, and safety incidents can increase.

If you knew why employees leave and could attack the turnover problem armed with that knowledge, would it change how you manage your operation?

Why Employees Leave

Employees leave because they believe things will be better somewhere else. What does “better” really mean? There are six answers to that question.

  1. Better Manager. It’s often said that people don’t leave organizations. They leave managers. If turnover is chronic in your operations, it could be a sign that the management team needs help. Not everyone is cut out to manage a team. Sometimes, people are promoted into positions they are ill-equipped to handle. And in a waste and recycling operation environment, stress and burnout are common.
  2. Better Hours. Whether you operate one, two, or three shifts, you may offer employees the opportunity to work four 10s or to change between the 1st and 2nd shifts on a periodic basis. Regardless of the standard hours, there’s always room for small adjustments that can improve employee satisfaction and reduce turnover.
  3. Better Pay. This is a tough one. Ask any employee if they want to make more money, and 100% will say Yes. The better question is, do our pay rates match or beat the local competition? Are our wages based on how we’ve always paid people, or are they based on an analysis of current workforce data in our market?
  4. Better Benefits. Employees often look for jobs that offer health insurance benefits like medical, dental, and disability coverage. You may or may not provide those benefits to your workforce, or they may have to work a certain number of hours or months before they are eligible for benefits. Fair enough. What other benefits can you offer that would be appealing to your workforce? Think about a free lunch once a month. A company t-shirt after six weeks on the job. Early out the day before a holiday. Get creative and do what will suit your operation and budget.
  5. Better Location. You can’t change your location. What you can change is the way you recruit. If you’re hiring alone or recruiting through a workforce partner, be very clear about your location, what bus line you are on, or what transportation options you make available. Do you help coordinate carpools? Be sure to probe each candidate about their transportation plans during the interview. They may want the job but not stay if it becomes too expensive or difficult to get to and from work.
  6. Better Culture. What employees really mean here is they want to work in a place that is a better fit for them. Do they feel like they belong? Do they understand why they are doing their assigned tasks and how their role fits into the bigger picture? Do they feel like they have a friend at work? Many MRFs start new employees with a “buddy” who shows them the ropes and can provide a friendly ear when there are questions or concerns.

Better Opportunity

The desire for these “better” job conditions can be summarized as Better Opportunity. Employees want to know:

  • Do I have a chance to move up? Do you promote from within?
  • Will I make a higher wage over time?
  • Does my manager care about me as a person? Does he have my back?
  • Can I learn skills that will help me throughout my career?
  • Is this industry one that’s growing?
  • Is this a place where I belong?

Make “Better” Happen

Reducing turnover starts with the job interview. Provide a clear, optimistic, but realistic overview of the job. At Leadpoint, we offer job candidates a realistic job preview so they can truly understand what the work entails…before they take the job.

Show appreciation and treat people fairly every day. Every employee in your operation has the same goal as you do in your work: they want a job where they can earn a paycheck so they can care for themselves and their family. Their unspoken goal is to get home safely at the end of every shift, just like you.

And think of the adjustments you can make—the little things—that will build teamwork, morale, and tenure. When you do, turnover will decline, and productivity will increase.

Finally, if you want to know more about what your employees mean when they say they are leaving for something better, ask them! Exit interviews are powerful learning tools for any operation and give employees a chance to be heard without risk and with dignity.

How do we know these things? At Leadpoint, we’ve provided safe, productive, and stable teams to the waste and recycling industry for nearly 25 years. We focus on recruiting and hiring skilled employees who we train and onboard to support your operation. Our on-site supervisors and diligent attention to safety have helped operations nationwide become more efficient and profitable.

Talk to us about reducing turnover at your MRF, PRF, polymer site, landfill, transfer station, or collection operation. Call 888-205-1511 to speak with a Leadpoint representative today.

Editor’s Note: This blog post has been updated to ensure it accurately represents the latest information and offerings from Leadpoint. While the original version was published in September 2020, we have made revisions to provide our readers with the most current insights from Leadpoint. Thank you for your continued support and interest in our content.


  1. Currently working at your facility Outagamie county recycling Center Holland rd. Been there since February. I have brought safety issue to Management about new hire,s that have been there months and most of those have no Steel toe saftey shoes .most wearing plan soft sole Shoes. They said to me mind your own Business ! Someone is going to get foot crushed or Sole of foot Cut on Broken glass

    • Thank you for bringing this to our attention, Bill. Your comment has been forwarded to a member of our executive team.

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