GREENVILLE — Michael Yoder has been working as a trash collector for Rumpke for more than 10 years. Yoder lives and works in Greenville. He wakes up at 3:25 a.m. each morning, Monday through Friday, and works for 10 hours, from 4 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Loading a pile of wood into the back of his truck, Yoder recalled a fun childhood memory that helped inspire him to apply for the job in the first place.
“My friend’s dad was a trash collector when I was a kid, and we used to ride around on the back of his truck,” Yoder said.
While the weeks following the Christmas season are technically the company’s busiest, in terms of sheer volume, they’re not really the worst, according to Yoder.
“The next couple weeks after Christmas, it’s heavy,” Yoder said. “All the wrapping paper, boxes, and so on. But the worst time of year is the spring and fall. That’s when everybody cleans out their house. And they’re doing their lawn, so you get bags of leaves, flowers, grass clippings.”
One of Yoder’s more gruesome discoveries was the feet, guts, and hide of a freshly slaughtered deer.
“You wouldn’t believe how often you see that,” Yoder said. “I’ve been doing it so long, it’s all normal to me. You find things like prosthetic limbs, or raccoons jump out at you.”
People often try to dispose of items that aren’t allowed, according to Yoder, such as wet paint, which can cause quite a mess. Or lithium ion batteries, which can explode when compressed, causing fires in the backs of trucks. One of Yoder’s responsibilities is to keep an eye on unbagged trash as it falls into the back of the truck, so he can see if there’s anything that doesn’t belong.
“One of the biggest aggravations is tires,” Yoder said. “People put them in the trash, and we can’t take them, so you take them out. Then they put them back in, and you take them out again. Sooner or later someone gets tired.”
Yoder claimed the job had gotten easier in the time he has worked, however, especially where heavy lifting is concerned.
“In the old days, you had to roll the barrel over, then pick it up and dump it,” he said. “It could weigh as much as 200 pounds.”
Now the hydraulic system on the back of the truck picks up the trash container and dumps it for you, according to Yoder. Still, the job is not for everyone.
“It takes a rare breed to do this job,” Yoder said. “Being out in the weather. The summer, with all the smells. Or spring, with all the rain, and trash juice spraying and getting in your mouth.”
Safety can also be a concern, he said.
“I’ve been in some tight situations,” Yoder said. “You’ve got cars coming down the road when it’s foggy, and they can’t see where the driver is as they try to make their way around. It’s no cake job, I’ll say that.”
In the end, however, Yoder didn’t hesitate when asked what his favorite part of the job might be.
“The people I work with,” Yoder said. “Steve Rumpke is just a really good guy, there’s no other way to say it. He’s not above you; he’s right there with you. He’ll go out and drive the route alongside you.”