The tough work of waste and recycling workers often goes unnoticed, but many of their youngest customers are watching with great appreciation.
Whether it’s the size and sound of the collection vehicle or the excitement of seeing their waste get taken away, pick-up day has become a favorite for many children. This fascination with large trucks isn’t necessarily new, though thanks to social media and local news stations, it's been getting even more attention. As these interactions between families and their local collection crews become an online sensation, Waste Dive takes a look at some of the most heartwarming stories.
An emotional bond
Unlike other vehicles that drive by each day, collection trucks often only come once a week, which can turn into a special occasion for many kids. Though moving from watching out the window to meeting the workers in person can sometimes be too much to bear.
Last year, a photo of 2-year-old Cincinnati resident Quincy Kroner meeting his heroes—Mark Davis and Eddie Washington—quickly went viral. Kroner had earned a toy garbage truck for successful toilet training and went out to show the men, but his emotions got the best of him. Thankfully he had a chance to meet them again when the city’s mayor honored the two men with their own special day not long after.
This spring, a Facebook video from Florida news anchor Martha Sugalski has been one of the biggest hits yet. Sugalski regularly films her three-year-old triplets—Heaton, Wilder and Holden—celebrating the arrival of "garb" day. The crew seems to enjoy the moment just as much and even lets the kids help drag their cans out from the curb. One video from May in which the triplets bring out Gatorade for the men currently has more than 34 million views.
Their first best friends
A pair of two-year-old boys in different parts of the country made the news last year in unrelated bittersweet stories about their final weekly meetings with workers.
In Spokane, WA, a young boy named Brody got to his grandmother’s house two hours early every Monday morning to watch the automated truck come pick up cans. Loren McDeid, a 22-year veteran driver, said the moment was often the highlight of his week. Sadly, this routine had to end when Brody’s grandmother went back to work after the summer was over.
A similar story played out in Texas when Deacon Ross—a big fan of his toy garbage truck—had to move to a new house to accommodate a growing family. Deacon had declared local worker O Dee his best friend and even wanted to name the new baby after him. The two parted ways with a hug and a gift basket from Deacon’s mom.
Cans for Christmas
For some kids, the love of garbage is even stronger than their excitement for holidays. Last year, 4-year-old Jobiah Wells said that all he wanted for Christmas was four new cans for his block in Folsom, CA—two blue, one gray and one green. Wells had become the unofficial keeper of 17 neighbors’ cans by pulling them in from the curb each week after the pick-up. His wish was fulfilled on Christmas when the city dropped off four shiny new cans with bows on top.
Down in Lafayette, LA, Cohen Mahoney received a similar surprise on his seventh birthday this year. Four employees from Republic Services showed up to his home with gifts that included a toy truck and clothing with his name monogrammed on it. Mahoney’s fascination with garbage is so strong that he has said he wants to be a collection worker when he grows up.
Meeting a hero
Brooklyn Andracke of Bloomington, IN began watching the truck come by her window every Thursday morning when she was two, but had never met the man behind the wheel. This year Andracke’s third birthday happened to be on a Thursday so she brought a cupcake out to driver Delvar Dopson who was equally excited to meet her too. The following week, he brought her some birthday presents in return.
Since then, Dopson’s reputation for kindness and community work has spread fast and inspired messages from other sanitation workers throughout the country.
"It doesn't matter if I'm a garbage man or if I'm a CFO at State Farm. We all have to discover our gift and be effective," Dopson told NBC Chicago. "By me recognizing my gift, I think I'm affecting my workplace."
Paying it forward
Most recently this spirit of community was on display in Sacramento, where driver Angelo Bunac has begun handcrafting and painting replicas of his truck to give to kids on his route. Each one takes him about two days to complete and he’s given out two so far with plans for more. Two-year-old Hudson McGuire, who waves to Bunac every week, was one of the recipients and his mom was very touched by the thought.
"...He’s paying it forward. He’s thinking about, you know, it’s more than just a job," she said. "He did something above and beyond for my kid and now we can go do something for somebody else and make somebody else happy."