There is no mucking around with Edmonton’s waste collectors, who roam the City during rain, hail and snow to clear our curbs of garbage and recycling.
Their 10-hour day begins at 6.30 a.m. with the roars of around 60 trucks boosting up to disperse across various parts of the city.
Each collector has about 700 houses daily per route and they work against the clock to ensure no street is left unturned. It is by no means an easy task, judging by all the meandering lanes and rounded cul-de-sacs they have to contend with, not to mention trying to reverse a giant truck through them.
“What makes it tougher are the parked cars on the street blocking our access and making space tighter,” says Joe Peden, as he skillfully moves the truck forward and back to go from house-to-house in a particularly tight cul-de-sac.
Some of the garbage set outs were considerate to the collector with bags weighing less than 20kg, but others had bags heaving at 40-50kg, requiring a huge amount of effort to lift and heave into the truck—a serious risk of injury to collectors. Another challenge was bags busting under the weight, scattering garbage across the sidewalk for the collector to try to clear up.
Jumping on and off their truck, waste collectors collect 14,000 to 22,000kg per day—and on this particular ride along—gathering 10,000kg of garbage in only three hours. “We definitely don’t need a gym membership,” says Chad Mickleborough. Every now and again he presses the magic button to compact the garbage in the truck, jokingly warning to keep a good distance, “you never know what will spray out” he laughs.
Once the truck reaches its maximum 10,000kg, it’s time to deliver the contents for processing at the Edmonton Waste Management Centre before going back to finish their route. “On a good day, I can get it done in one load, but I often need to go back to finish my route when the garbage set out is heavy, like today,” says Joe. This is always the case during summer with all the grass clippings, and fall with all the leaves they have to collect.
Once their own routes are complete, Joe and Chad head off to help finish other routes. “We work together to get it done,” they say with pride.
Winter brings its own set of challenges; slippery waste collection sites, snow piles limiting maneuvering space, and heavy bags and cans sitting on top of windrows instead of where they should be—on level ground, it’s all in a day’s work for a waste collector.
A waste collector’s work is often invisible—we set out our garbage every week and it magically disappears. However, judging by the respect shown by the residents who look out for the arrival of their waste collector with an appreciative “thank you”, our collectors definitely make a difference every day. “One of the best parts of the job is the relationship we build with residents—particularly in communities with older people who greet me on a weekly basis,” smiles Chad.
Visit www.edmonton.ca/waste to learn how you can make our collectors’ jobs safer.