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Alternative titles for this job

Recyclers/dismantlers take apart, separate and sort materials to be recycled or reused.


New recyclers/dismantlers usually earn

$19-$20 per hour

Experienced recyclers/dismantlers usually earn

$20-$25 per hour

Source: Association of Automotive Dismantlers and Recyclers Christchurch, 2016.

Job opportunities

Job opportunities for recyclers/dismantlers are average due to limited growth in the industry but reasonably high worker turnover.


Pay for recyclers/dismantlers varies depending on experience and responsibilities.

  • New recyclers/dismantlers usually start on the minimum wage or a little more.
  • Recyclers/dismantlers experienced in plant and equipment operation can earn between $20 and $25 an hour.
  • Recyclers/dismantlers with managerial experience, or who run their own businesses, can earn more than this.

Source: Association of Automotive Dismantlers and Recyclers Christchurch, 2016.

(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our pay information)

What you will do

Recyclers may do some or all of the following:

  • sort materials, such as paper, plastics, glass, and green waste
  • press paper, plastic, and metal cans into bales
  • collect and dispose of solid and hazardous waste
  • operate fork-lifts to load or unload materials.

Dismantlers may do some or all of the following:

  • identify and sort different metals for processing or resale
  • assess vehicles and make offers to buy them
  • assess buildings and make offers to deconstruct them
  • remove all saleable parts from vehicles and buildings
  • sell parts to garages and the public, and sell vehicle remnants for scrap metal
  • sell recycled/salvaged building materials to the public.

Skills and knowledge

Recyclers/dismantlers need to have:

  • knowledge of sorting and grading requirements for different materials
  • thorough understanding of safety procedures and lifting techniques
  • knowledge of the value of scrap metal, wood, fixtures, parts and recyclable materials
  • mechanical skills for using workshop tools and dismantling vehicles and buildings into usable parts quickly and carefully.

Some recyclers/dismantlers need to be able to drive heavy vehicles such as trucks, or operate heavy machinery such as fork-lifts.

Working conditions


  • work regular business hours or longer, and may work weekends
  • work indoors and outdoors at recycling depots, garages, workshops, and car-wrecking and demolition yards
  • may work in noisy and dirty conditions.

What's the job really like?

Nick Stewart

Nick Stewart

Automotive Dismantler

An early interest in cars led to automotive dismantling work

Nick Stewart works as an automotive dismantler, which involves carefully and efficiently removing parts from cars to sell to garages and the general public.

"I've been fixing cars and motorbikes since I was 15. It all started when I replaced a diff head upside down and the car wouldn't work. I was pretty embarrassed and wanted to learn more."

Learning to be a dismantler

"There are a few different things involved in the process, from draining fluids and taking off bolts, to removing engines with fork-lifts and using the hoist to work on the car. But you don't need any special qualifications or skills to get into this job – all the training is on the job."

A good dismantler needs motivation and initiative

"You have to be pretty self-motivated as a lot of the time there isn't someone around telling you what to do. You have to know what to do when you finish a job. You need initiative to just clean up and move on to the next thing. Ultimately, a willingness to learn is key to the job."

Entry requirements

There are no specific entry requirements to become a recycler/dismantler, as skills are gained on the job. However, some employers may require you to have a driver's licence, a heavy vehicle licence, or a fork-lift (F) endorsement on your driver's licence. Other employers may help you to gain your licence on the job.

Some recyclers/dismantlers choose to work towards national certificates or diplomas in areas such as zero waste and resource recovery, scrap metal recycling, composting or solid waste disposal. These qualifications are available through the industry training organisation MITO.

Personal requirements

Recyclers/dismantlers need to be:

  • motivated
  • efficient
  • adaptable
  • reliable and punctual.

Useful experience

Useful experience for recyclers/dismantlers includes:

  • volunteer work at a community recycling centre
  • physical labour
  • forklift and loader driving
  • factory work.

Physical requirements

Recyclers/dismantlers need to be reasonably fit and strong as they may be on their feet for long periods, and have to lift heavy objects.

Find out more about training

New Zealand Demolition and Asbestos Association
0800 469 322 - www.nzdaa.com
0800 88 21 21 - info@mito.org.nz - www.mito.org.nz
New Zealand Association of Metal Recyclers
0800 69 72 72 - gm@nzamr.org.nz - www.nzamr.org.nz
Waste Management Institute NZ Inc (WasteMINZ)
(09) 486 6722 - info@wasteminz.org.nz - www.wasteminz.org.nz

What are the chances of getting a job?

Recycling opportunities best with council recycling schemes

Job opportunities for recyclers are best with local council-run recycling schemes. These are often the biggest recycling operators in a province, with recycling and refuse centres that recycle glass, paper and tin. Although total worker numbers are quite low, people often do not stay in the role long, so opportunities arise regularly.

According to the Census, 816 recyclers/dismantlers worked in New Zealand in 2018.

Moderate demand for dismantlers

Job opportunities for dismantlers are slightly better due to the increasing price of scrap metal and e-waste like gold and copper from computer components.

Opportunities for people salvaging building materials are still strong in Christchurch, where deconstruction work increased following the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes. Jobs will also be generated in Wellington as earthquake-prone buildings are brought up to Building Code standards over the next few years.

Automotive dismantlers now face competition from people taking cars apart themselves and selling parts online. 

Types of employers vary depending on the materials being recycled

Recyclers/dismantlers can work for local councils, community recycling businesses, and private companies that specialise in:

  • collecting recycling from households
  • removing waste such as timber offcuts, glass and brick from construction and demolition sites
  • processing scrap metal
  • car wrecking and recycling.


  • Fell, D, branch manager, Wellington Recycling, Waste Management, Careers New Zealand interview, September 2015.
  • McPherson, G, general manager, Southern Demolition and Salvage Ltd, Careers New Zealand interview, February 2016.
  • Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, '2006-2014 Occupation Data' (prepared for Careers New Zealand), 2015.
  • Simm, P, regional manager – Wellington, Waste Management, Careers New Zealand interview, September 2015.
  • Stats NZ, '2018 Census Data', 2019.
  • Wilson, R, president, Association of Automotive Dismantlers and Recyclers, Careers New Zealand interview, February 2016.

(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our job opportunities information)

Progression and specialisations

Recyclers/dismantlers may progress into supervisory roles. They may also set up their own businesses. 

Recyclers may specialise in recycling a certain type of material such as metal, plastic or glass.

Automotive dismantlers often specialise in dismantling certain types of vehicles such as trucks, four-wheel drives or Japanese cars.

Jed Walker sorts recycled materials at a counter

Sorting materials to be recycled is an important part of a recycler/dismantler's job

Last updated 13 October 2020