Certification Programs for Recycling Professionals

Get a Career Boost Through Professional Certification in Recycling

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If you are aspiring towards 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 a 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 relatively new and rapidly growing industry.

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

Certification Training Programs Currently Available in the U.S.

Here is a list of programs currently available in the United States:

Certification from SWANA is held by several standards as a standard for solid waste sector employees. SWANA offers ten certification disciplines. These certification streams include:


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 recycling to maintain their certification. For experienced county or government professionals, New Jersey also offers a shorter program.

Offered through the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, the S.C. Recycling Professionals Certification Program is a "comprehensive professional development program targeting local government recycling coordinators and solid waste directors. " The program aims to offer professionals with the range of information needed to grow and improve in their roles of providing cost competitive and sustainable operations.  A list of recycling topics covered is listed in this Forward.

Santa Monica College offers its Recycling and Resource Management (RRM) Program at Santa Monica College, providing formal individual training. It is offered through a twelve unit Certificate in Recycling and Zero Waste.

The Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA) and the California Resource Recovery Association (CRRA) are offering a Zero Waste Principles and Practices course and certification program throughout the United States and Canada, commencing in mid-2016, initially in California and the Washington, D.C. area. The course will deliver comprehensive knowledge of the fundamental principles supporting Zero Waste programs for both the private and public sectors.

This course is designed for on-line self-paced learning, offered in cooperation with the Association of Oregon Recyclers. It is an eight-part introductory course. The first session is free.

Other Programs

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 the program you choose meets the needs of certification in your jurisdiction. Another good idea is to look at job postings online in your area and see what qualifications employers seek. This will help ensure that you are on the right track.