Be Kind to Your Trash Men & Tip Them

Posted by Vivian McNeil on

What is one of the most dangerous, tiring and least appreciated professions today? Would you be surprised if I was to say, a garbage man? Yes, your local waste management workers must go through thick and thin, literally. Whether it’s treacherous weather conditions, or precarious factors of the garbage itself, they don’t work on easy street. There is also another aspect of garbage pickup to consider. That is the respectable treatment of the workers by the home or apartment dwellers who use the services of the sanitation company. 

How careful are we when we throw away our trash? 

Most neighborhoods have some form of recycling, however, some don’t, and even those districts that do, don’t enforce these recycling ordinances. For example, when glass or mirror shatters in your home, how do you dispose of it? Maybe a child or spouse has broken something sentimental and does not want the rest of the family to know about it. Into the garbage it goes, camouflaged by a nice seemingly resilient trash bag. However, unless you have industrial sustainable garbage bags, there is a fair chance that the sharp glass shard can spear right through the trash bag. 

Garbage collection day arrives and along comes your innocent garbage man. He is wearing gloves, hopefully they are cut resistant, and now he careful hauls off your garbage. With some companies, the garbage men never touch the bags and place them straight into the back of their trucks. Elsewhere, particularly in my vicinity, when there is an excess of trash on certain pickup days, the garbage men will first come around, remove the garbage bags from the cans and place the bags on the curb, to await the return of the garbage vehicle. In such a scenario, there is a chance of the sanitation worker cutting himself with the glass in the bag. Or even more seriously, what if there is an occupant of the home who uses syringes for a condition as innocent as diabetes? The syringe could be alarmingly contaminated if not properly disposed in a sharps container. 

What to do when disposing a large piece of glass? 

One day, a large piece of clear glass from a frame broke in my home. I was thinking how could I prevent the trash men from cutting themselves if a piece of glass pierces the garbage bag? I found some masking tape in a drawer, and carefully covered all the sharp shards of glass with the masking tape. I then put the broken glass in a separate heavy-duty trash bag and rolled it up. Only then, did I put the broken glass in my regular 13 gallon kitchen garbage bags. I did not hear any screaming from the trash men, so I assumed that all was well. I should have looked online to find the correct way to safely dispose of it.

Later, I was searching online to see the correct way to dispose of broken glass. It helped me understand how to dispose of dangerous garbage like broken glass. If you do not have access to a glass recycling bin or a depot, here is the best solution. Take a strong rag or cloth and wrap it around the glass so that it is securely covered. If the glass is in a large piece carefully break it into smaller pieces. Have a small cardboard carton prepared to which you will insert the cloth with the broken shards of glass. Make sure the box is not too large, otherwise you will have to put an additional cloth on top of the wrapped glass to keep secure. Use strong tape to seal the box. It is very important to label the box with the words, danger, broken glass, in bold red letters. Now it should be safe to put near or inside the garbage bin. You will need to find out who will be collecting this item of garbage. It might be picked up on the regular garbage route or perhaps the recycling one. It really depends on your area. Certain counties just make you take it to the township recycling station and throw the glass directly into a massive compactor. 

Frozen garbage bags getting stuck to each other 

In the wintertime, in certain regions the weather is brutally cold. Sometimes the snow is not shoveled properly on the path that the worker must walk on to get to the frozen garbage. Often, the garbage bags are frozen together and the workers must use their hands to break them apart. No doubt, the best part of the snow season is sitting in the truck plowing the snow. However, our icy trash man still must get off his truck to pick up the trash. A neighbor of mine, if she is at home, will offer the trash worker a cup of hot coffee in the winter and a cold bottle of water in the summer. Yes, our sanitation men are human and need to be cared for. 

Hauling garbage can be one of the most dangerous jobs 

Nationwide, sanitation and recycling work remains more dangerous than policing or firefighting. In 2016, only loggers, fishermen, airplane pilots and roofers suffered a higher rate of job-related fatalities in the United States than did trash professionals. Labor unions have laws and salary stipulations that help domestic sanitation men. But not all sanitation districts are that strictly regulated. Additionally, day to day pickup, is individually considered as each residence has their own personal criteria for what is safe trash. Unless, a sanitation worker would open each bag individually and look inside, there is no way to guarantee complete safety to them.

In New York City, conditions are especially difficult for employees of the private waste transporters who collect trash from the city’s businesses each night. While workers employed by the Department of Sanitation, which collects residential trash are unionized and offered health care, pensions and a median base pay of $69,000, those who work for private companies are paid as little as $80 a shift, with no overtime or health or retirement benefits. This means it’s common for nonunion employees of private companies, 60 percent of whom are members of racial minority groups, to earn less than $35,000 annually

Treating garbage men with respect 

Why are you honking at the garbage man who is holding you up from driving down the street? In New York City, for example, there are alternate side parking regulations at different times on different days. The street cleaners are supposed to clean the streets at certain times of the day on designated days for each district. Therefore, legally, no cars should be parked on the side of the street that has the no parking signs. For some unknown reason, in one neighborhood of Brooklyn, drivers double park on the side of the street where the cars can’t park, causing an impossible driving situation for any motorist, specifically trucks. A garbage truck collecting garbage has no choice but to stop to pick up the trash and thereby hold up traffic. The driver of the garbage vehicle must finish his daily run so he cannot keep moving his truck. 

Tipping garbage man for Christmas 

We have detailed some of the concerns that our trash men must live with. What about the residents themselves? When it comes to the holiday season, how satisfied is the home or apartment dweller with the past year’s trash service? Satisfied enough to give a nice holiday gift or angry enough at the careless performance of the sanitation company to hold a tip back. It’s a “catch 22” situation. Withholding a gift can mean worse service going forward to the new year and imparting a gift shows approval for a poor performance. Perhaps this year will be the year, where you choose to thank your garbage men for their service by tipping garbage men.

The stench of garbage in the heat of the summer is something not even a rat would want to smell. I certainly do not see my trash man wearing a mask to cover his nose. How does he handle it? If it’s not the awful odor, then it’s the sharp objects. If it’s not the dangerous sharp objects, it’s the bitter cold. If it’s not the bitter cold, it’s the sweltering heat. No matter what mark a person wants to give on their trash man’s report card, please remember his challenges and give him the benefit of the doubt. A nice holiday card of thanks with a generous monetary gift inside the envelope, would certainly be appreciated by your trash man. Even if you have dripping garbage that falls out of your bags or some garbage left inside your pail, it still pays to be nice and give your sanitation worker some appreciation. 

It could be possible, that before he turned the corner of your block, your trash man, was faced with a terrible garbage situation that took up way too much of his time and he is in a big hurry to get through his route on time. So, let’s give our sanitation workers some slack in this holiday season. Extend the motto of “be kind to your neighbor” to our trash men as well. Whether they are holding you up from driving or dripping and dropping your garbage they are still hard-working citizens. Maybe, we should be using extra strength garbage bags instead of blaming our trash workers for the mess. Let’s investigate ourselves, this holiday season and try changing internally instead of looking for others to change. I bet, we can begin a whole new relationship that will precipitate the trash men to improve their performance, as well.

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