Waste Collector Appreciation Day in Edmonton—a chance to say thanks for the lift

Imagine this bit of momentary fright.

You are getting ready to move to a new home. It’s a hectic time. Packing, unpacking, repacking. What to keep, what to toss out. Friends pitch in to help. Somehow, they put a bag containing your family’s passports, financial statements and thousands of dollars in cash into a black garbage bag. That garbage bag is tossed into a bin at your apartment complex. The dumpster is picked up by a City waste collector and dumped into the truck. You realize your future is buried in that garbage in that truck.

It’s a true story. It happened in Mill Woods in April. What happened next demonstrates the dedication of the City waste collectors who came to the rescue that day. It is a dedication to the people of Edmonton shared by all City of Edmonton waste collectors. That dedication is why every year in Edmonton June 17 is Waste Collector Appreciation Day. 

“The work our waste collectors do provides Edmontonians peace of mind,” said Chris Fowler, Director of Collection Services. “They allow us to live in and enjoy our communities and environments free of waste, giving us the opportunity to focus on what we care about most.”

A City of Edmonton collection truck picking up recycling at a multi-unit building.

Eyes, ears and (automated) arms

City of Edmonton waste collectors play a front-and-centre role in the quality of life enjoyed by Edmontonians. When the pandemic hit, they kept going, safely. When automated pickup was added to curbside collection, they rose to the occasion. They were and are on the front lines of the Edmonton Cart Rollout, the biggest change to residential waste management in decades. They will reprise that role when three-stream sorting of garbage, food scraps and recycling happens at apartments, condos and other multi-unit buildings, projected to start in late 2023. 

“Waste collectors have been on board every step of the way and will be frontline, as always, making sure the transition goes smoothly,” said Fowler. 

“Without our collectors, these changes to Edmonton’s waste management would not be possible,” he said. “Their observations from the field and feedback they provide gives us the information we need to keep improving.”

An Assisted Waste collector taking waste and recyclables from a resident at their doorstep.

Helping hands, too

The City of Edmonton’s Assisted Waste program is another example of the connection between waste collectors and the people they serve. The free initiative sees collectors set out waste for approximately 1,000 Edmonton residents with mobility challenges. 

 “The service is even more direct, and residents get to forge a real bond with their collectors,” said Fowler.

The transfer floor at the Edmonton Waste Management Centre, where a crew searched for the missing items. File photo.

Digging deep

Back now to the search for those missing valuables in Mill Woods. 

The resident approached the waste collector in the truck with his urgent request to recover the valuable garbage bag. There was no feasible way to search the contents of the truck there at the apartment complex. It was safer and easier to do that at the drop-off building (it’s called the Integrated Processing and Transfer Facility) back at the Edmonton Waste Management Centre on Aurum Road on the city’s east end. 

The driver called his supervisor and got the wheels in motion for the recovery effort back at headquarters. A team was assembled. With rakes and pitchforks they sifted through the garbage. After 45 minutes, they struck gold, or, at least, the money, passports and documents.  The driver returned the cache. And got an enormous hug for the team’s effort. 

“Emergencies like that are, happily, rare,” said Fowler. “But what’s not rare is how dedicated waste collectors are to their jobs and the Edmontonians they serve.”

A collection truck picking up a food scraps cart in a back alley.

Waste Collector Appreciation Day: June 17, 2022
You don’t have to hug your waste collector to show you care. Attach a sign to your cart, bags or bin for your waste collectors to see. Post a message on social media. Tag @CityOfEdmonton and #yegWaste so we can share it with your collectors. Or show your appreciation by simply sorting and setting out waste properly. Find collector safety tips at edmonton.ca/CollectorSafety.

A thank-you message taped to the lid of cart in 2021.

Editor’s note: the pic at the top of the post shows one of the City of Edmonton’s waste collectors on the job. Nasir wasn’t involved in the passports-money-document saga, but has been serving Edmonton residents for 14 years.