The female tortoiseshell was thrown into a bin full of cardboard which was then emptied into the back of a waste truck.
As the truck’s crusher began operating, two binmen heard her cries and stopped the mechanism.
The men, who were completing their round in Plymouth, Devon, then saw the kitten fall from the crusher’s blades.
The kitten, which has since been named Lucky, was unharmed in the incident.
Donna Cook, from Devon Contract Waste, said: “They were picking up recycling and when the truck up-ended and, as the crusher started pulling back the cardboard, they heard her screams. They stopped the crusher and out fell the kitten from its blades.”