A waste collector, sanitation worker, dustman, binman (in the UK), garbageman or trashman (in the USA) is a person employed by a public or private enterprise to collect and dispose of waste (refuse) and recyclables from residential, commercial, industrial or other collection site for further processing and waste disposal. Specialised waste collection vehicles featuring an array of automated functions are often deployed to assist waste collectors in reducing collection and transport time and for protection from exposure. Waste and recycling pickup work is physically demanding and usually exposes workers to an occupational hazard.
Health and safety hazards
Statistics show that waste collection is one of the most dangerous jobs, at times more dangerous than police work, but consistently less dangerous than commercial fishing and ranch and farm work. On-the-job hazards include broken glass, medical waste such as syringes, caustic chemicals, objects falling out of overloaded containers, diseases that may accompany solid waste, asbestos, dog attacks and pests, inhaling dust, smoke and chemical fumes, severe weather, traffic accidents, and unpleasant smells that can make someone physically sick.
Scavengers and recyclers
In many developing countries, the first people to tackle the waste collection are pickers (scavengers) working in the informal economy, i.e. they may be self-financing through recycling, repairing, and reselling. Examples include the bottley-wallah, recycler of many sorts of materials in India, castes such as the Zabbaleen in Egypt, or tip scavenger groups in Brazil such as documented in the film Hauling.
In India people performing manual labour as sanitation workers are also called manual scavengers.
Many varieties of English have a range of names for waste collectors, from formal job titles for municipal employees, to colloquial and regional terms.
- Eugène Poubelle – French official who ordered that all Paris landlords supply their tenants with covered garbage containers in 1884. The standard French term for a garbage can, boîte Poubelle, is named after him.
Former waste collectors
- Andy Abraham – X-Factor contestant
- Mike Batt – wombles singer and Lieutenant of the Royal Victorian Order
- Larry Bird – hall of fame basketball player – briefly after dropping out of Indiana University and before enrolling at Indiana State University.
- Jim Bowen – English stand-up comedian and TV personality, formerly schoolteacher
- Michael Carroll – UK National Lottery winner (got his job back in 2010 after he went bankrupt)
- Barry Horne – animal rights activist
- Steve Hutchins – politician
- Richard Leiterman – cinematographer
- Wally Lewis – arguably the greatest Rugby League footballer of all-time
- Nathan Rees – politician, former Premier of New South Wales
- Neville Southall – international footballer
- Georges St-Pierre – mixed martial artist and UFC Welterweight Champion, (worked as a garbage man for 6 months)
- Benjamin Pell – a quasi-private investigator known in the British press as "Benji The Binman"
- Martin Phillips – Welsh darts player who has made multiple appearances in the BDO World Professional Darts Championship
- Peter Steele – late vocalist/bassist of Type O Negative drove garbage trucks and other vehicles for the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation
- Malcolm Webster – convicted murderer in England
Fictional waste collectors
- Nicodemus "Noddy" Boffin, aka the Golden Dustman – in Charles Dickens' Our Mutual Friend, probably based on Henry Dodd, a ploughboy who made his fortune removing London's rubbish
- Alfred P. Doolittle (Stanley Holloway) – a common dustman from the stage play My Fair Lady (Broadway, 1956; London, 1958; Warner Bros. motion picture, 1964)
- Louie Wilson (Scatman Crothers) – from American sitcom Chico and the Man
- Carl (Charlie Sheen) and James (Emilio Estevez) – from the 1990 film Men at Work
- Barney Gorman (Tony Danza) – from the 1998 television film The Garbage Picking Field Goal Kicking Philadelphia Phenomenon
- Bob and Doug McKenzie – in the 2009 animated series Bob & Doug
- Sid Phillips – main antagonist in the animated film Toy Story (1995) who grows up to be a bin man as seen in Toy Story 3 (2010)
- Garbageman – from the comic strip Dilbert
- Howard Moon – a character of The Mighty Boosh, having worked twice as a bin man, once prior to the show and lastly in "The Strange Tale of the Crack Fox".
- Duke "The Dumpster" Droese – character created by professional wrestler Mike Droese
- Muckman – from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
- Wreck-Gar – from Transformers Animated
- Roc Emerson – from the Fox television series Roc
- Roger Wilco – from the Space Quest computer game series by Sierra Entertainment
- The films Blood Feast, Scanners III: The Takeover and Child's Play 3 all feature minor characters being murdered with refuse trucks
- Oliver Frensky – from the TV series Arthur
- Jonathan Thomas Meriweather – a sanitation engineer mistaken for an engineer in Spellsinger by Alan Dean Foster, saving the world with magic
- Shigeru – from the 1991 film A Scene at the Sea by Takeshi Kitano
- Mr. Persepolis – father of Angeline Persepolis in Someday Angeline by Louis Sachar
- Unnamed father in 1960 popular song My Old Man's a Dustman by British singer Lonnie Donegan
- Lala Hagoromo – from the 2019 anime Star Twinkle PreCure, collected trash for a living due to her poor skills assessment before becoming Cure Milky.
- Lubin, Gus; Lincoln, Kevin (21 September 2011). "The 15 Most Dangerous Jobs In America". Business Insider. No. 7: Refuse and recyclable material collectors. Retrieved 20 November 2019.
- Holbrook, Emily (20 September 2011). "The 10 Most Dangerous Jobs in America – Risk Management Monitor". Risk Management Monitor. Retrieved 20 November 2019.
- "The silence of the bottle-oh". The Sydney Morning Herald. Sydney. 15 December 1951. p. 2. Retrieved 20 November 2019.
- Thomson, John; Smith, Adolphe (1877). "Flying Dustmen". Street Life in London. Victorian London. Retrieved 20 November 2019.
- Sun, Baltimore. "Welcome to the MMA Insider blog on baltimoresun.com".
- Voytko, Eric (2016). "Refuse trucks on film". Classic Refuse Trucks. Retrieved 20 November 2019.
- "My Dad, the Garbage Man/Poor Muffy". IMDb. Retrieved 20 November 2019.
- Star Twinkle PreCure episode 29
- The Australian term garbo stems from a now-disused street cry used by garbagemen during the early 20th century.
- The British term dustman stems from the Victorian era, when men would collect the dust (ashes and cinders) created by the many tons of fossil fuels burned in cooking ranges at the time.
- Mechanical – Skilled Occupations: Refuse Collectors (PDF). California Occupational Guide. State of California, Employment Development Department. 2002. Archived from the original (PDF) on 20 April 2006. Retrieved 20 November 2019.