Things You Didn't Know About Garbage Men

What's it like to be a garbage man? If you're sick of your desk job and considering something where you work with your hands such as sanitation worker jobs, first you need to find out exactly what sanitation workers do. Sure, there are trash collector jobs in every city, large and small, but they are by no means easy. If you don’t mind getting up at the crack of dawn, working in all kinds of weather, lifting thousands of pounds, and smelling some of the worst stuff on the planet, a garbage man salary may be just the right thing for you. But the truths about trash collecting are not just the obvious ones you think you already know.

One of the truths about trash collecting is that garbage men don’t mind being called garbage men. They’re also called “sanitation engineers,” “waste management professionals,” “refuse collectors,” and “garbage collectors,” but they certainly don’t mind being called garbage men or garbage women. Technology has removed the need for lifting and tossing in most cities, but being in physically peak condition is part of what it takes to be a garbage man in towns that don’t have automation.

So what else do garbage men do? In some cases they are trained to look for suspicious behavior or crime. Their hours, the access to alleys and unseen spots on the street, and their close proximity to people’s intimate cast-offs, make them a good resource for law enforcement. 

Sometimes, sanitation worker jobs go to a standing army. To clean up the thousands of pounds left behind by climbers of Mount Everest, the Indian army was asked to perform a clean up in the spring of 2015. Tents, garbage, camping and climbing gear, and myriad other random things are left behind as many try for the peak.  

Trash collector jobs also require a strong stomach and a solid demeanor. Garbage man facts will always include those two attributes when dealing with the worst side of humanity. Loose garbage, human and animal feces - and even worse - require not just a good nose for the job, but even a sense of humor.  

What’s it like to be a garbage man? This list takes a tour through the maggoty glitz of one of the most dangerous jobs on the planet.

  • It’s One of the Most Dangerous Jobs in the World

    There are around 90 work-related deaths out of 100,000 employees in the US per year. Sanitation worker is ranked third among the riskiest jobs in the United States, with only fishing and timber cutting ranked higher. Garbage collectors have twice the fatality rates of police officers and nearly seven times that of firefighters.  

    Dangerous machinery, falls, exposure to needles, and other sharp objects are just a few of the many reasons for injury and death.
  • Some Garbage Workers Lift 100 Pounds or More Hundreds of Times During a Shift

    Unless you work in a city where they have fancy hydraulic lifts for the trucks, sanitation workers lift and toss 15 to 20,000 pounds of rancid garbage on average into the truck during a single shift.
  • Garbage Men and Women Find a Lot of Drugs

    The trash heap is THE place to toss your stash when on the run from the cops, so garbage men are not phased by finding all manner of drugs - and sometimes those drugs are explosive.  

    One garbage man recounted an interesting story about just such an explosion on Reddit: "My guys called me frantic one day after an explosion in the hopper of the truck. Thankfully no one was injured, but I called the fire department and police always come on fire calls too. Turns out they had been watching the house we were in front of because the guy was cooking meth. He threw away some of the ingredients and the pressure when it compacted caused it to explode. The best part was the fact that the guy sat out front watching the show in a bathrobe. He eventually got dressed and came back out. When he was arrested he had drugs in his pants. Apparently he didn't own any pants without drugs in the pockets."
  • Some Towns Train Their Garbage Men to Spot Crime

    In Men at Work, garbage men Charlie Sheen and his real life bro Emilio Estevez (who also wrote and directed the film) uncover an illegal toxic waste dump after finding a body in a can on their route. A county in Florida thinks their garbage workers would also make good sleuths. They’re out on those mean streets every day, after all. Waste Management and Manatee County, in Florida, even train their trash collectors to spot and report suspicious activity.  

    "They're out early in the morning when most folks like myself are sleeping then they're out during the daytime in your communities or they've left home and gone to work," said Joe Vidovich, head of corporate security for Waste Management. "So, they're in a position to see what's going on in your neighborhoods when you're not there."  

    Other towns across the US also turn to their garbage collectors - as well as postal workers - to look for any kind of suspicious behavior.
  • Pay Averages $9.11 to $24.50 per Hour

    The average hourly rate for a garbage man is $15.55. Drivers typically make more than the average refuse worker and need a commercial driver’s license.
  • Before There Were Garbage Men, There Were Toshers, Mudlarks, and Dustmen

    People took care of their own waste by burying it or burning it, until the population boom around the turn of the century. With the arrival of the Industrial Age, many waste products could be recycled to make others. Dog feces were used to purify leather and ash was added to mortar. This scraping lead to many clashes between scavengers and authorities.  

    The Public Health Act of 1875 created a formal waste collection authority and required that household bins be full with each pick up. Empty cans resulted in a fine.  

    In fact, it was Benjamin Franklin who created the first street cleaning service in 1757.