RECYCLING | Unsung Heroes: The ins and outs of the garbage bin

A thumbs up to the people knee deep in trash and still smiling on the front lines of the battle with our waste. Photos: Oliver Berger. Collage: Josh Moffat

A thumbs up to the people knee deep in trash and still smiling on the front lines of the battle with our waste. Photos: Oliver Berger. Collage: Josh Moffat

By Oliver Berger –

 

Well, it has been a crazy few years. Lots of fun activities packed with endless adventures. I am mostly happy with my latest endeavours in the waste management field and all the wonderful opportunities that have come along with it. I have met so many dedicated people and learned a lot of what happens behind the scenes. It has been very rewarding as well as surprising to hear some of the crazy stuff that most people do not witness.

During one visit to a transfer station in the area, I got to talking with the attendant working that day. He told me a story about a lovely visitor dumping his garbage into the waste bins at the site. He noticed this visitor also had many cardboard boxes that were getting tossed into the bin. He suggested to the man that he should use the recycling station just across the yard for the cardboard, because that is where it goes.

The man paused, turned to the attendant, and told him to “f*ck off.”

Wow, eh? I didn’t realize people could be so rude. Must be the blissful ignorance I inherited from my mother.

This is a glimpse into the reality of some of the treatment transfer station attendants can receive. For some reason a certain percentage of the public, not all I might add, deem it necessary to treat the attendants like some kind of lower class citizens. Do these public think dumping their physical garbage also means dumping their mental garbage? I mean, these attendants are only trying to help and educate about new regulations, following through with what has been asked of them for their job.

It takes dedication and a powerful mindset to keep your head up and moving forward if you are a worker in the garbage sector. Dealing with society’s leftovers all day and physically sorting through it can be mentally challenging as well as dirty. Also, for being such an important job in society (I mean, what if landfills or transfer stations didn’t exist?) the pay rate is not really the most fantastic. All these reasons combined could be why some days when you approach these sites, you might not have the friendliest face greeting you. Perhaps the person before you turned that previous smile upside down.

I have a friend who is one of the main clean up guys for our area, maintaining the unmanned landfills and dealing with illegal dumping in our back roads and forests.

“Positive thoughts, positive thoughts!” is a phrase he constantly repeats in his head.

 

He can be track-deep in his excavator, in our smelly, maggot-filled waste, covering and compacting to manage air space, yet he is still smiling. Most of the time he has no idea what he is driving over or grabbing with his bucket, while he is in these pits. He has unwillingly crushed semi or full propane tanks, freezers loaded with rotting meat, ammunition, and even had an almost heart attack when he pulled out an inflated blow-up doll. One time, while covering a finished landfill pit with a bulldozer, his work partner at the time ran over some improperly dumped dynamite, actually lifting the bulldozer off the ground, along with the driver and sending a mushroom cloud of garbage into the air. That wasn’t a fun surprise.

Every time he rolls up to a site he maintains, he basically is waiting to see what surprise society has left him since the last visit. More often than not, it is abuse of the wood waste collection sites that are the biggest clean ups. Riddled with random metals, plastic piping of all sorts, electrical wiring, carcasses, broken boats, trashed trailers, appliances, and even one time a completely full septic tank. Does any of that sound like wood to you? I don’t know how he continues smiling through all this repeated chaos some days; however, I’m sure rocking out to Iron Maiden while doing so probably helps!

Now, I should say not all people who dump their waste are this challenging. Most people are actually really good; it is the few bad apples who make it frustrating. However, when I listen to the stories from our unsung heroes, it brings a smile to my face when they tell me how happy it makes them when someone comes along and just says a simple “thank you for what you do” or brings them a little treat, like a coffee or cookies. These small tokens of appreciation go a long way for these people… trust me! Make sure you give your garbage guy a big wave next time he cruises by. What if he didn’t show up that morning… or month?

Without these dedicated soldiers out there controlling, assisting, and educating the public with their waste and recycling needs, we would not be having the success we are today. I am also really happy with the co-operation from the public dealing with all the waste management changes in our area; your patience and understanding is appreciated. We have reduced our garbage heading to our landfills and increased our recyclables heading out of town significantly. We should be proud of the path we are on. I say hats off to all of you workers and public. Thank you for your continued dedication. We are all becoming so much more aware! Let us continue this positive progress.

 

Oliver Berger has a 34-year degree in life, starting out in the Spokin Lake area, spending adolescence in Williams Lake, and then venturing throughout the world on a quest of always learning new things. His priorities include dedication to and education about waste management.

 

 

 

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