'We're fighting with the snow all day,' but northern Ontario garbage collectors say summer is worse

While there are challenges to the northern Ontario winter, trash collectors in Greater Sudbury say it's easier than working through the heat of summer.  (Erik White/CBC - image credit)
While there are challenges to the northern Ontario winter, trash collectors in Greater Sudbury say it's easier than working through the heat of summer. (Erik White/CBC - image credit)

The snow comes flying off a black garbage bag as Chris Kranz grabs it, spins around and tosses it into the back of a garbage truck.

"We're fighting with the snow all day," said Kranz, who's worked as a waste collection operator with the City of Greater Sudbury for a little over a year.

"It's like running in the sand."

He says there are some garbage bags that get buried by passing snowplows and likely aren't seen until spring.

"We've definitely got to houses and you see the blue box and there's just two distinctive bumps, and you know it's a garbage bag," Kranz said.

"If you put it out the night before, there's a good chance we're not going to see it."

Erik White/CBC
Erik White/CBC

But he said that despite the challenges of the northern Ontario winter, it's still much harder to do his job during the warm months.

"It's actually a lot harder to do the job in the summer, when it's plus 30 [C] and you can't take off any more layers," Kranz said.

"The winter is a lot easier. It's easier to get centrifugal motion.The best waste collector is somewhere between a ballerina and a basketball player."

Greater Sudbury's two-person garbage truck crews switch spots, and Kranz said while riding on the back is more physically demanding, most workers see it as a mental break compared with being behind the wheel.

"When you're coming to a stop, [on the back] there's 10,000 things to think about," he said.

"When you're driving in the truck, there's 30,000 things to think about."

Erik White/CBC
Erik White/CBC

Kyle Anderson, the waste collection foreman for the city, said garbage trucks are one of the few vehicles where a worker is allowed to ride on the outside. But there are legal restrictions, including a 300-metre limit on how long the collector can ride without getting off, and the truck is also forbidden from going faster than 15 km/h.

"The staff are doing a lot of multi-tasking while they're driving the truck," said Anderson.

"Of course they're very concerned with the safety of the collector riding on the back of the truck."

Kranz said while the public doesn't often see it this way, the challenge of waste collection is one of the things he likes most about his job.

"It's engaging. You've got to make decisions all the time," he said.

"It's chaotic. And I love it."