Working early hours. Lifting heavy, smelly bins. Dealing with customer complaints. Operating difficult equipment.
These tasks and more are what garbage haulers are faced with on a day-to-day basis. As the industry's front-line workers, their duties are the necessary services that keep waste businesses afloat. But, many times, these haulers go beyond these duties to demonstrate work that is nothing short of heroic.
From building bonds with their youngest customers to saving the lives of strangers, garbage haulers have proven time and time again that their actions can change the worlds of those around them. Therefore, in a difficult and inspiring task, Waste Dive compiled five of the most admirable and heroic stories of haulers who went out of their way to make a lasting impression on their communities.
1. Arnold Harvey — Transforming the lives of D.C.'s homeless
Arnold Harvey, who has worked with Waste Management for more than 25 years in the Gaithersburg, MD district, is far from your average trash hauler. In fact, some may just know him as a "tent angel."
Harvey, a U.S. Army veteran, has spent nearly a decade providing tents, food, blankets, clothes, and other supplies to the D.C.-area homeless through his small nonprofit, God's Connection Transition. He was inspired to begin the charity when he noticed an alarming amount of people sleeping outside on his overnight trash service route.
Now, the nonprofit that is run by Harvey and his wife, Teresa, helps about 5,000 people in need each month.
"You just gotta outlast the storm by one day," Harvey told Fortune when he was honored as one of Fortune's Heroes of the 500 in 2015.
2. Nathan Binnie — Saved a furry friend from being neglected in the trash
In late 2014, Advanced Disposal garbage truck driver Nathan Binnie of Johnstown, PA, was collecting trash from a bin when he saw a small pair of eyes looking up at him.
Those eyes belonged to a Collie-lab mix, now known as Fawna, who had been described as "skin and bones." Fawna had been left in the garbage bin after home owners had moved out of the house. Binnie quickly came to the dog's rescue, fed the dog his lunch, and called the Humane Society of Westmoreland County.
"I pulled her out and made sure she was half okay, I guess as much as I could," Binnie said to CBS Pittsburgh. "And I actually fed her my lunch. I could tell she was hungry and I had a good turkey sandwich I thought she’d enjoy. Gave her some water."
3. Andy Perez Garcia — Awarded a top civilian honor after saving the life of a drowning child
Andy Perez Garcia, a truck driver for Waste Pro USA, heard screaming while on his service route in Miramar, FL in December and quickly jumped to investigate what was happening.
What Garcia found was a one-year-old boy named Bradley just pulled from a pool, unconscious, without a pulse, and in need of a miracle.
Garcia called 911 and gave CPR to the boy until rescue crews arrive and took over. Eventually, paramedics were able to restore the boy's pulse. Bradley, who is now two-years-old, has fully recovered.
Earlier this month, Garcia was awarded a "Life Saving Award" from the city of Miramar for his heroic actions. "He showed dedication, selflessness and above all else, an eagerness to do what’s right. Andy’s co-workers aren’t surprised that he would jump to action like this, since Andy is just a wonderful person," said Waste Pro Chairman and CEO John Jennings in a statement.
4. Micah Speir — Returned $12,000 in checks to local elementary school
Micah Speir, a Seattle-area garbage truck driver for Waste Management with a sharp eye, noticed a bank bag in a pile of trash while on his service route in November. Inside the bag was $12,000 in checks — and a slip that noted the checks were from a fundraiser being held by the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) at Lawton Elementary School.
Speir was able to get in touch with the principal of the elementary school and return the checks to him. Moved by his integrity, Principal Dorian Manza offered to pay Speir for his kindness. Speir declined.
"The only thing that crossed my mind was who did it belong to and how to get it back to them," Speir said to ABC News. "It doesn't really take much effort to do the right thing. It was no sweat off my back."
School officials, who needed the money to pay for school supplies and art supplies, call Speir their "hero," according to ABC News.
5. Harvey Corrigan — Presented with 'Good Samaritan' award after giving CPR to unresponsive man
Harvey Corrigan, a truck driver for Advanced Disposal in Ferguson Township, PA, was picking up trash from a local Subway when he found a pickup truck stopped in the trafficway. Inside the truck, Corrigan found an unresponsive man, called 911, then quickly pulled the man from the vehicle to begin CPR.
Within minutes, township officers arrived on the scene and eventually resuscitated the man.
"What I like about this incident is it’s the perfect textbook case about what you want to have happen in your community," said Police Chief Diane Conrad to the Centre Daily Times. "But it only happens if people are trained and step up to the challenge."
At Advanced Disposal's annual meeting in January, Corrigan was presented with the Good Samaritan Employee of the Year Award for his rescue efforts. He was the only employee of 5,400 to win the award.