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Ode to the Trashman

I’ll be honest I came up with this blog after reading an article in a waste hauling/management magazine by an old time trucker/trashman. The article touched on the loss of respect for today’s trashmen and waste haulers.

garbage truckThe modern trashman or garbageman doesn’t receive the respect he or she deserves (yes there are a good number of women working in the waste and recycling fields, but that’s for another blog) for the services they provide. These positions aren’t considered the most well respected jobs. These are dirty, labor intensive and unforgiving jobs. Many times considered a dirty job provided by the uneducated.

Most people may not realize that these jobs can pay very well. In NYC some garbagemen are making six figures. The jobs are well paying many times and unionized, but the workers earn their pay. Trash hauling is big a money business. People and companies are willing to pay whatever it takes for their trash to disappear. For the most part the waste hauling business is controlled by a handful of large national corporations.

The line of work is dangerous and dirty. These workers have to deal with our waste and heavy machinery. They have to handle what we discard. Ranging from food waste to dirty diapers. Often times even hazardous and deadly materials. When a work grabs a barrel to dump he has no idea what could be inside.

Accidents do occur in waste hauling and workers often are injured or killed. The waste/trash hauling industry is ranked as the fourth most dangerous job in the U.S. Ranked behind the logging industry, pilots and the fishing industry. (!slide=5306407)

This line of work like the modern American laborer is being devalued. His or her labor isn’t respected or worth what it should be. Whatever the worker feels is a reasonable pay someone will claim they are being overpaid and can find someone cheaper. I’ll stop there before I turn this into an article about modern workers rights instead of recycling.

Trashmen are the frontline of waste management and recycling. They are not the recycler’s enemy.  At one time many large trash companies were anti-recycling, but that has pretty much changed. Some of the large waste haulers were concerned at one time that they might lose money from recycling programs being started. Almost all trash companies now provide recycling services. A worker can be the trashman one day and the recycling man the next day.

These workers many times go unseen. You put your barrel out on the curb the night before or the morning of your collection day. When you come home its empty. You don’t see or interact with the trashman. Your trash just disappears.

They provide a much needed service. They take away your garbage. What else would you do with your trash? (This is mainly addressing Boston and other urban areas where there is household trash service.) The trash has to be hauled away from your neighborhood somehow. This goes for where you work as well. That coffee cup and used tissue you tossed has to make it to the landfill or incinerator some how.

These workers help keep cities and towns clean and sanitary. Similar to many forms of labor in this country they are being devaluated and treated like the trash they toss in their monster packer trucks. They provide a needed service that many people won’t and can’t do. These workers don’t need (or want) for everyone to bow down to them, but an occasional “thanks” is somewhat deserved and appreciated.