What words distinguish them? ..

  • I care nothing for what happens to garbage once it leaves my residence.
    – Robusto
    Jun 26, 2015 at 15:27
  • I care, because the other garbage man takes paper, plastic, and glass from us and then pays us money for them in return. In hindi he is called raddii wala. Jun 26, 2015 at 15:30
  • 2
    Sending trash to be re-used is called "recycling" in the US. I do not recall a special term for the intermediary like "the recycling man" however.
    – GEdgar
    Jun 26, 2015 at 15:32
  • The latter is a "recycler".
    – Hot Licks
    Jun 26, 2015 at 17:13
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    Garbage picker or waste picker are commonly used for the latter. Jun 27, 2015 at 0:54

6 Answers 6


Other terms are:

Junk dealer:

  • (US) a person who buys and sells discarded or secondhand objects. (Collins)

Garbage hauler/collector -

  • someone employed to collect and dispose of refuse. (The Free Dictionary)
  • 1
    usually, you take your stuff to the junk dealer, he doesn't come for it.
    – Oldcat
    Jun 26, 2015 at 21:25
  • @Oldcat In India they have middle men who come to our houses for collecting junk ad then pay us money for the same. Jun 30, 2015 at 4:20

In British English a term for someone who takes away your garbage to dispose of it is 'dustman'


A man employed to remove household refuse from dustbins.


Also British English, the rather lovely, and sadly now very much in decline term for someone who takes away your rubbish to try and sell it is 'the rag and bone man'


An itinerant dealer in old clothes, furniture, and second-hand items.


  • Thanks, is there something called a garbage man? Jun 26, 2015 at 15:36
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    'Dust man' sounds very old-fashioned to me [in Merseyside, UK]. We use 'bin man' - the man who empties the bins. Jun 26, 2015 at 15:58
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    @DavidGarner My old man's a dustman ;-) Jun 27, 2015 at 0:04
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    Now that my ladder's gone, I must lie down where all the ladders start, In the foul rag and bone shop of the heart.
    – user98990
    Jun 27, 2015 at 2:02
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    @Digital Trauma, to quote Lonnie Donnegan, I now feel like a proper 'nana! Jun 27, 2015 at 7:51

You may want to consider "scavenger," which means someone who puts to use what others have discarded.


There is a US tradition of the rag and bone man, a junk collector. They don't pay for what they collect, but rather sell it along to recyclers. In my distant youth I would see them driving pony-carts.

You may also hear sheeny man in some locations but this has an unsavory history as an anti-semitic slur (though I doubt people using it today would be aware of that).

  • @MarvMills - sorry, I was composing as you were posting. I'll let mine stand for its second half.
    – Jim Mack
    Jun 26, 2015 at 15:40
  • @TheIndependentAquarius - With the rise of curbside recycling in the US, there are no more such collectors. But we do sometimes have charity "paper drives" which collect used newsprint and such to raise money for youth organizations, churches etc.
    – Jim Mack
    Jun 26, 2015 at 15:43
  • Where I live, the curbside recycler will take any type of paper, cardboard, or plastic. But the only acceptable metal is aluminum. To get rid of other metallic waste, we rely on metal scavengers. Any metal of any kind left at the curb will be gone within a few hours.
    – deadrat
    Jun 26, 2015 at 15:58
  • @deadrat - I believe we can recycle any metal, but what you say is true here as well. I don't think there's enough activity that scavengers scour the area for a living, it's more opportunistic. We have an annual "big trash day" where large and non-recyclable items will be collected, and almost none of what's put out reaches the official collectors. (-:
    – Jim Mack
    Jun 26, 2015 at 16:10
  • I've never heard the term rag and bone man, but I like it. Jun 26, 2015 at 20:17

One term is gaining popularity in my region (central USA) due to the History channel show "American Pickers" - The person would be called a Picker.

a person or machine that gathers or collects something.

In this case, they are gathering "junk", sometimes to collect, but also sometimes to gather and then sell.

There may be a slight difference however, in that a picker is choosing, or picking, what to take from you - only the stuff that he wants or is able to sell.

  • You just triggered a memory from childhood (US upper Midwest), when we still had "alleys" behind blocks of houses (parallel to two streets they ran between). On the way home from school we'd go "alley picking" for treasures...
    – Jim Mack
    Jun 26, 2015 at 21:19
  • See Garbage / Waste Picker Jun 27, 2015 at 0:52

What words distinguish them?

None in my locale.

we have "bin-men" who empty our non-recyclable bin into what we used to call a dustbin-lorry. We also have "bin-men" who empty our recycling bins into a separate vehicle. The local council arrange for both collections.

I suspect you'd have to talk about bin-men a lot before the need for additional qualifying adjectives started to seem tedious enough that you'd feel a strong need to find or invent a new noun.

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