Trash a treasured job for refuse collectors


By Nathan Kraatz - [email protected]



Nick Sandlin empties a 4-gallon dumpster at the Wilmington Public Library in the early morning hours.


Nathan Kraatz | Wilmington News Journal

A little about the landfill:

Wilmington’s city-owned landfill is at a pivotal crossing. In a few years, it will be full to capacity. City officials must decide whether to close it and find another way of handling residents’ trash or expand the current landfill. Both are seven-figure projects that may require rate increases.

Currently, the sanitation department employs 16 people, including Sanitation Superintendent Braden Dunham, and oversees an annual budget of $2.2 million. In addition to the landfill and residential refuse collection, the landfill collects commercial waste, operates a curbside recycling project as well as an on-site cardboard recycling program, rents dumpsters, runs a welding shop and offers a class 4 compost facility that takes in 800 cubic yards of compost.

The landfill takes in more than 17,000 tons of municipal solid waste – most residential, commercial and business waste – between more than 4,000 residential and 400 commercial customers on an annual basis, according to Dunham. It also takes in more than 9,000 tons of construction and demolition material, such as bricks, lumber and drywall.

Dunham said the compost facility annually takes in 800 tons of compost, and the curbside recycling program diverts 144 tons of recyclable materials from the landfill. According to Dunham, 10 tons of cardboard was collected last year.

WILMINGTON — Many people struggle to make it to work by 8 a.m. Fewer still wake up around 4 a.m. so they can be on the road and at work by 5 a.m.

Cody Romohr, who leads a refuse collection crew for the Wilmington Sanitation Department, is one of those few. Romohr, 28, began working for the city’s landfill at 19 and says he’s still adjusting to waking up that early.

When he started, he rode on the back of the garbage truck and threw in bag after bag of trash. Later, he operated equipment at the landfill itself before he began driving the truck on residential routes.

“Never in a million years” did he think in high school that he would end up driving a garbage truck for Wilmington.

After a semester of college, Romohr said, he realized college wasn’t for him, and he didn’t want to spend four more years doing it. That, and an ad for a garbage collector, convinced him to apply.

“I like working outside. I don’t like being inside at a desk all day,” he said. “This kind of fit the bill.”

Romohr said others who find out that college or a desk job isn’t for them should also consider applying — the job is good and comes with good benefits, and there are opportunities to advance, as he did. In fact, he said, “I’ll probably retire from here.”

Meanwhile, some dangers of the job include being attacked by stray or pet animals, other drivers and their vehicles, work-related injuries and weather.

“If it’s 20-below and snowing, we’re picking up trash,” Romohr said. “We work all holidays” and in all kinds of weather, from rain to ice.

While contact with the public is limited, Romohr said he does get the occasional compliment or complaint. Around Christmas, the collectors also get a lot of cookies.

He hasn’t yet been given a fresh glass of milk, though.

Reach Nathan Kraatz at 937-382-2574, ext. 2510 or on Twitter @NathanKraatz.

http://wnewsj.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/web1_trash-guys.jpg

Nick Sandlin empties a 4-gallon dumpster at the Wilmington Public Library in the early morning hours.
http://wnewsj.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/web1_DSC_0551.jpgNick Sandlin empties a 4-gallon dumpster at the Wilmington Public Library in the early morning hours. Nathan Kraatz | Wilmington News Journal

By Nathan Kraatz

[email protected]

A little about the landfill:

Wilmington’s city-owned landfill is at a pivotal crossing. In a few years, it will be full to capacity. City officials must decide whether to close it and find another way of handling residents’ trash or expand the current landfill. Both are seven-figure projects that may require rate increases.

Currently, the sanitation department employs 16 people, including Sanitation Superintendent Braden Dunham, and oversees an annual budget of $2.2 million. In addition to the landfill and residential refuse collection, the landfill collects commercial waste, operates a curbside recycling project as well as an on-site cardboard recycling program, rents dumpsters, runs a welding shop and offers a class 4 compost facility that takes in 800 cubic yards of compost.

The landfill takes in more than 17,000 tons of municipal solid waste – most residential, commercial and business waste – between more than 4,000 residential and 400 commercial customers on an annual basis, according to Dunham. It also takes in more than 9,000 tons of construction and demolition material, such as bricks, lumber and drywall.

Dunham said the compost facility annually takes in 800 tons of compost, and the curbside recycling program diverts 144 tons of recyclable materials from the landfill. According to Dunham, 10 tons of cardboard was collected last year.

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