Resource Recovery Engineer

Develop processes for recycling waste into useful products.

What does a Resource Recovery Engineer do?

Resource Recovery Engineers are fascinated by transformations. So much so that they make their living designing them – particularly, the transformation of waste into usable materials. After all, the world is full of stuff that starts out as one thing and ends up as another. Caterpillars, for instance, turn into butterflies, trees turn into houses, and Thanksgiving leftovers turn into day-after sandwiches.

Even old cars, furniture, and electronics can be recovered, refurbished, or rebuilt into something new. That’s your realm when you’re a Resource Recovery Engineer. A devotee of the three Rs – recycle, reduce, and reuse – you design systems, processes, and products that harvest solid waste and transform it into raw materials that can be used to make brand new merchandise.

Employed by engineering firms, manufacturers, and waste management companies, among others, you figure out what can be recycled, into what, how, and at what cost. A type of Civil Engineer, you do so by studying the physical properties of solid waste – anything that’s thrown away, be it wood, metal, glass, or rubber – and analyzing new and existing methods for processing it.

Along the way, you spend time inspecting recycling centers, conducting experiments, and promoting recycling to industry stakeholders, the media, and the public. Always, though, your number one goal as a Resource Recovery Engineer is using the science of engineering to find the best, most efficient way to turn trash into treasure.

In addition to reducing waste, saving space in landfills, and conserving natural resources, recycling is a cost-effective business strategy. Like other environmental professionals, therefore – such as Chief Sustainability Officers, Sustainability Managers, and Green Building Architects, among many others – your work helps both the environment and the bottom line.