Cleaning Up Naperville

Could you imagine what our community would be like if there was no one to pick up all our trash?

We had the opportunity to meet one garbage man happy to help keep the city clean. For about 20 years, Bill Willis has been taking out the trash, professionally that is, starting well before sunrise.

“I get up at 3:15 in the morning to start at 5 o’clock,” said Willis. “It’s an early job, which I like.”

His day begins at the Waste Management truck yard in Rockdale, with a team huddle to go over safety procedures, followed by vehicle inspections, which includes checking that the garbage lift is working properly and there’s plenty of oil. A short trip later, Willis gets down to business, collecting garbage at Naperville homes, typically between 800 to 1,000 in one day.

“It’s a good job. it’s always going to be there no matter how the economy is. I like working by myself and the physical activity of it keeps you in shape.”

It’s so demanding that to become a garbage man requires you pass a physical test with the Department of Transportation. However, the job has become a little easier over the years, thanks to robotic claws.

“Believe me, it’s still physical but it’s much easier on the back,” said Willis. “Still, we have to pick up trash outside the cans, but we don’t have to drag the cans to the truck anymore.”

The automation process also means fewer people try to leave out large, bulky items. Though Willis some still try to put out swing sets and other things they cannot pickup. He also says some residents accidentally throw out valuables, including money. The most expensive thing he’s ever heard of someone throwing away is a wedding ring.

“18 years ago, my boss called and said a lady lost her wedding ring. She accidentally threw it away,” he said. “So we went to a landfill and she went out there and within in an hour, she found her ring.”

As for the trucks – they’re a lot more environmentally friendly than they used to be.

“A lot of people don’t know that it’s a CNG truck which is natural gas,” said Willis. “It’s quiet, safe for the environment so a lot of people miss us now cause they can’t hear the garbage truck coming down the street.”

Each vehicle is equipped with a small computer screen where the driver can mark whether trash was collected or not left out at each house.

“So if you say “Oh, the garbage man missed me, you can go on this computer system and show them, ‘nope the garbage man was here at 9:10 and you did not have your trash out. And it’s just a recording system which a lot of competitors do not have this so it give us an edge.”

Waste Management has ten trucks in Naperville to haul away your trash and four for your yard waste, but a different company is handles the recyclables.

“That makes it a little harder because if the other company has something in their recycling bin that they can’t recycle, they’ll toss it aside and then people think ‘”Oh, the garbage man left it,’” said Willis.

When asked what message he would like Naperville to give Naperville residents, Willis replied:

“We are just like any other person that’s working in your new ride I mean we want respect just like everybody else we’re just here to do your job and because we leave something behind it’s not because we want to we have rules and regulations on stuff we can take and can’t take.”

After everything is said and done, Willis and his fellow drivers end their day dumping all the trash from their vehicles to one large semi-truck, which takes it all to a landfill.

While it may seem like dirty work to some, Willis says he wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I love this job this is a job where I don’t mind getting up in the morning and going to work.”

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