Diamond Scientific Salutes our Florida Garbage Men

Diamond Scientific Salutes our Florida Garbage Men

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I recently attended the SWANA Florida Chapter Winter Conference 2024 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, and it brought back memories of what I knew about solid waste in times of old and what I learned in the past two years. 

I was hired into this industry a little over two years ago at the time of writing with barely any knowledge about solid waste. My background is in chemistry so I was focused on the use of analytical instruments for the solid waste industry.

I, like most of the human population, had no idea how intricate and complex it was to manage solid waste. From the "civilian" perspective, the county or city dispatched trucks to service the neighborhoods and business districts. Upon reaching capacity the garbage trucks would simply empty their bounty at the dump.  

Over time the dump looked like a nasty mountain. Therefore, sod was placed over the trash to make it aesthetically pleasing. The pipes sticking out of the newly dressed mountain allowed gases to escape. Voila! A lovely little mountain to add depth to the flatness of Florida.

Under the mentorship and guidance of Ramon Rivera, our company CEO, I have been on a steep learning curve for all things pertaining to solid waste. Ray has been in the landfill business for almost 40 years. Needless to say, trying to cram 40 years of knowledge and experience into my brain for the last two years has been, shall I say, an adventure.

This new adventure expanded my vocabulary. Leachate has nothing to do with leeches. Wellheads are not for drawing clean, fresh water and a brown patch on the sod isn't because some animal decided to use that spot for a litter box.

As displayed in the presentations and discussions at the aforementioned SWANA conference, topics are almost endless when conversing about landfills.  

  • Converting waste to energy.
  • Contaminating our groundwater and soil with cookware coatings, stain-resistant fabrics, etc.
  • Managing debris after a hurricane
  • Characterizing types of waste based on demographics
  • Using artificial intelligence (AI) for increased efficiency in waste collection
  • Communicating effectively with customers, co-workers, and policy makers
  • Updating the industry on upcoming legislation
  • Recycling alternatives

Two years ago these subjects would soar over my head. I was overwhelmed with the amount of information related to landfills; from what it took to physically create a landfill,

understanding the regulations to maintain that landfill, and knowing the mechanisms and machinery required to manage the landfill... and that didn't include all the ancillary processes like collecting and hauling the waste before reaching the landfill, managing staff and drivers, interacting with irate neighbors who didn't appreciate the sweet smell of success.

Solid waste is a dirty business and is often taken for granted by the general population. It's not too often you hear a "Thank you for your service!" to the garbage man. However, every once in a while when Mother Nature kicks us in the derriere and debris is scattered across the landscape, that's when the garbage trucks roll out like military tanks and restore civilization to order. 

The next time you see one of those behemoth trucks lumbering by your house or you stop at a transfer station to drop off your old paint and broken furniture, offer a quick nod and salute in gratitude to the men and women who keep our society from descending into rot and decay.