by Edith Cody-Rice

Blaine WIllows from Waste Management

Each week we put out our waste and recycling and normally don’t give it a second thought. Occasionally we will catch sight of the trucks, but what do we know about those people who are performing this vital task during the Covid epidemic, potentially exposing themselves to the virus?

Waste Management, which has the contract for trash collection in Mississippi Mills, dedicates two employees, Andrew Grant and Blaine Willows, to collection in Mississippi Mills. They work from Tuesday to Friday in our community

Waste Management serves nearly 25 million customers in residential, commercial, industrial and municipal markets throughout North America through a network of collection operations, transfer stations, landfills, recycling facilities and waste-based energy production projects. Come rain, shine or Covid, the drivers operate heavy-duty trucks which collect the trash or recycling, then transfer it to a disposal facility when trucks reach legal load capacity.

Topps Environmental Solutions, located in Carleton Place, has the contract for recycling in Mississippi Mills. It, too, has two dedicated recycling collectors, called Side Load Operators to service the community daily from Tuesday to Friday. Each operator drives a truck following routes to collect the recycling and take it to the Beckwith Transfer Station. Topps has been serving the Ottawa Valley since 1985.

Andrew Grant from Waste Management

Waste Management stated it has protocols for collecting waste including medical waste so their employees are well prepared to continue operations during the Covid 19 outbreak. The management of waste that is suspected or known to be contaminated with Covid-19 does not require special precautions beyond those already used to protect workers from the hazards they encounter during their routine waste management job tasks.

The company states that it has ramped up employee communications on virus protection, is educating employees n health awareness and has increased the cleaning and sanitizing high touch areas. The company has also suspended domestic and international travel until further notice, is providing a 40-hour work guarantee for their employees, eliminating all large in-person gatherings in the company where possible and requiring employees to inform the company if they have returned from personal travel to a country which the Centre for Disease Control and the Public Health Agency of Canada have put out Level 2 or 3 warnings. If so, the employee is be required to do the 14-day quarantine.

Although some residents like to help drivers by bringing items directly to the truck, Waste Management is now asking residents to simply place all their trash at the edge of the property to allow the drivers to maintain social distancing.

Side Loader Operator Mike in front of a Topps truck

With the arrival of Covid 19, Topps hired a full-time cleaner to clean the shop where the trucks are kept as well as the common area for drivers and pickers. The cabs of each truck are also cleaned on a regular basis. Drivers and pickers are also assigned “pods”: each driver works with the same picker and in the same truck for a week. This reduces transmission if a driver or picker is exposed to the virus. Gloves and masks, as well as a liberal supply of hand sanitizer, is available to each driver and all employees have been instructed about social distancing. Covid 19 has raised concerns about employees becoming ill, putting increased pressure on those still healthy. The volume of recycling appears to have increased, again putting pressure on drivers. Topps says that any employees who have shown symptoms that may be connected to Covid 19 are given 14 paid leave days to quarantine at home.

When asked what the community can do to help, Topps said having recycling at the curb at by 7 am on collection day is a big help.

Our waste collectors and recyclers are less visible than other unsung heroes as they often come by early in the morning or while we are at work, but their services are vital and we thank them.

Who are your unsung heroes of the pandemic here in Mississippi Mills — the people who continue to work hard to make this extraordinary time easier for all of us? Please send your nominations to millstonenews@gmail.com and we’ll honour the invaluable work they do.

 WASTE AND RECYCLING COLLECTORS