Waste and Recycling Industry Sees Decline in Rate of Fatalities

Waste and Recycling Industry Sees Decline in Rate of Fatalities

Industry Falls from Fifth to Sixth Deadliest Occupation

Arlington, VA – Today, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released 2019 figures for industry and occupational fatality data. In its 2019 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries Summary, the BLS reported that refuse and recyclable material collectors dropped to become the sixth deadliest occupation, resulting in a rate change from 44 per 100,000 full-time equivalents (FTE) in 2018 to 35.2 per 100,000 FTE in 2019.

“The National Waste & Recycling Association (NWRA) and our members are committed to improving safety in our industry, and we will never accept any loss of life. We are pleased, however, that our industry has become safer,” said NWRA President and CEO Darrell Smith. “Our staff works hard to ensure that our member companies have the tools and resources to operate safely.”

Over the past four years, NWRA and its chapters nationwide have successfully lobbied for “Slow Down to Get Around” legislation, which is now the law in more than 30 states. These laws require that motorists slow down when waste and recycling collection vehicles are stopped and workers are getting on and off, just as motorists are required to slow down in construction work zones, stop for school buses or pull over for emergency vehicles.

NWRA and its members have undertaken numerous initiatives that represent a comprehensive approach to improving safety for workers in the waste and recycling industry, including:

  • Foundational Safety Document
  • Safety Monday — A bilingual poster sent each week to member companies with important practical tips to prevent accident and injury.

The BLS data on workplace injury and illness is published annually, and information on the waste and recycling industry is based on the U.S. Census Bureau definition of the waste and remediation services industry (NAICS Code 562111) as “solid waste collection, hazardous waste collection, other waste collection, hazardous waste treatment and disposal, solid waste landfill, solid waste combustors and incinerators.”

NWRA will update the press release as additional information is made available from BLS. A copy of the BLS announcement can be found at www.bls.gov.


The National Waste & Recycling Association (NWRA) represents the private sector waste and recycling services industry. Association members conduct business in all 50 states and include companies that manage waste, recycling and medical waste, equipment manufacturers and distributors, and a variety of other service providers. For more information about NWRA, please visit www.wasterecycling.org.

Brandon Wright
National Waste and Recycling Association