There are many people involved in the maintenance and stability of an individual’s everyday life: the work conducted by some professions is more readily appreciated in society while the hard work and contributions by other professions tend to fall through the cracks of appreciation.
Doctors have Doctor Appreciation Day, teachers have their own week of acknowledgment, and even cows have their own appreciation day.
But on Monday, June 17, America will celebrate its newest appreciation day: Waste and Recycling Workers Week.
“The new holiday, conceived by Florida-based garbage company Arwood Waste Inc., encourages a raised awareness of men and women in the sanitation industry and the work they do for their communities,” said Molly Yeager Broadwater, Senior Corporate Communication Coordinator at Rumpke Consolidated Companies, Inc.
Out of Rumpke’s 2,4000 employees, over 1,000 serve as drivers of various types.
“Recycling and residential drivers exert serious physical effort, lifting and dumping resident cans or bins at each stop in every type of weather,” Yeager Broadwater said. “Recycling drivers average about 500 stops per day while residential trash haulers can make anywhere from 400-750 stops per day. Rumpke drivers average a workload of 55 hours each week.”
Often times, people take garbage men and women for granted: residents fill carts with smelly remnants of food stuck to paper towels, fly-covered moldy leftovers in opened cans or bags, cat litter, week-old takeout that was left sitting in the fridge, and worse. But residents never mind, because they know someone will pull up to their home and dispose of it for them.
But imagine if they didn’t.
“If the waste management industry were to decide to take a day off, we would quickly revert back to medieval waste management practices,” said John D. Arwood, founder of Arwood Waste Inc. “Tossing buckets of sewage off balconies or throwing household trash onto growing walls of garbage along our sidewalks, even possibly unleashing pigs in the streets to eat up our filth are only a few examples.”
As some may recall, when the Rumpke family got its start, they got rid of some forms of garbage by feeding their farm hogs with it.
Garbage collection is considered by some to be an essential task, not only for the aesthetic purposes of keeping homes and streets clean, but to prevent the spread of diseases.
According to historians, for example, the Black Death — also known as the Bubonic Plague — broke out in Asia, Europe and the Middle East in the 1300s and killed about 75-200 million people. While it is agreed upon that the Bubonic Plague outbreak was caused by the bacteria Yersinia pestis, which could infect animals and humans, the filthy street and living conditions in Europe only made it easier for people to become infected: waste in chamber pots was simply tossed out the window, garbage lay out in the streets to rot for weeks, and so on. Simply breathing the air seemed dangerous.
It was during this time that the English Parliament banned the dumping of waste in ditches and public waterways.
Britain also introduced their first garbage men that century, known as “rakers.”
“Their job was simply to rake up the trash, into a cart, on a weekly basis,” Arwood said. “These men forged the way for the future of the garbage man. You can imagine trying to clean a filthy city, enduring tough physical labor, and trying to stay healthy while doing it.”
The role of “rakers” and garbage men has evolved ever since, and they continue to play an important role in the present day.
Rumpke is officially supporting the holiday, as are other waste industry companies across the country, including the Solid Waste Association of North America. Hallmark has even agreed to test market Waste & Recycling Workers Week cards.
“Rumpke will celebrate the holiday by asking residents to thank and appreciate their local driver,” Yeager Broadwater said. “Residents can leave comments for their driver on cans on collection day by using a printable form available on Rumpke’s website. Residents can also leave comments at any time using the company’s online feedback form.