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Certification Programs for Recycling Professionals

Get a Career Boost Through Professional Certification in Recycling


If you are aspiring t)owards a career as a recycling professional (see the related stories, Jobs in Recycling Part 1 and Part 2, one important consideration is that of achieving professional certification within the field. The good news is that there are several programs available. The bad news is that such programs are still quite fragmented, which might be expected of a rapidly growing industry.

“Currently there is no national professional certification standard to support state or provincial training programs for sustainable resource management industry,” Recycling Organizations of North America (RONA) notes in a recent report. “As more cities, institutions, and businesses develop sustainability and Zero Waste policies, they need trained personnel to properly manage their resources and programs. Resource management enables business to become more efficient, increase their bottom line, improve community relations and decreased their financial and environmental risks.”

Certification Training Programs Currently Available

Certification programs are currently available from two state recycling organizations certified through an institution of higher learning. These are located in New Jersey (Rutgers University) and Pennsylvania in affiliation with Penn State University. Other programs certified at the state level are located in California, South Carolina, New Mexico, Massachusetts and New York. Other jurisdictions are in the process of developing certification programs, including Ontario, Canada as well as the states of Illinois, Indiana and Michigan in the U.S.

The New Jersey Certified Recycler Professional Certification Close Up

In order to complete the full (21-day) Full Recycling Certification program, an individual must attend the nine required courses in addition to successfully completing all course proficiency assignments.

These courses include:

  • The Recycling Coordinator’s Primer (half-day program)
  • New Jersey Recycling Practice and Theory (six-day program)
  • Improving Your Management and Leadership Skills (two-day program)
  • Recycling Non-traditional Materials (one-day program)
  • Understanding Recycling Economics (four-day program)
  • Enhancing Your Public Communication Skills (two-day program)
  • Recycling Public Policy (one-day program)
  • Recycling Collection Techniques (two-day program)
  • Recycling Case Studies (two-day program)
  • After completion of certification, CRPs must complete 12 hours per year of continuing professional education/training on issues relating to solid waste and/or recycling in order to maintain their certification. For experienced county or government professionals, New Jersey also has an alternate certification program to address this need.

    Specialized Recycling Certification Programs in Other States as Well as National Programs

    Specialized programs have also been developed by several states or provincial jurisdictions. These include:

  • Processing operator (Pennsylvania)
  • Compost Facility Operator (Maryland, New Jersey, New Mexico and Pennsylvania)
  • Waste Auditors (under development by Recycling Council of Ontario)
  • There are also several organizations at the national level that offer certificate training programs. These include:

  • Solid Waste Association of North America (Composting Programs, Construction & Demolition Materials, Recycling Systems)
  • US Composting Council (Compost Facility Operator)
  • US Green Building Council
  • Reuse Alliance (Master Reuser® Certificate Program)
  • Building Materials Reuse Association (Deconstruction)
  • WasteCap (C&D Recycling)/
  • Laborers' International Union of North America (LIUNA - Deconstruction)
  • As has been briefly outlined above, there are several certificate programs available for incoming as well as veteran workers in the recycling industry. In the future, look for increased harmonization. In the short term, take care to ensure that programs you are interested in meet the needs of certification in your jurisdiction. Another good idea is to look at job postings online in your area and see what qualifications that employers seek, to ensure that you are on the right track.

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