Garbage doesn't rest on Christmas

Tri-City HeraldDecember 25, 2013 

Christmas day garbage pick up main

When others are unwrapping Christmas presents and tossing the paper in the trash, Sam Locati is making the rounds in his garbage truck picking up that same trash. Locati, a 36-year veteran at Basin Disposal in Pasco takes it all in stride as he drops off a load Wednesday Christmas day while his coworkers look on.

PAUL T. ERICKSON — Tri-City Herald Buy Photo

The garbage doesn’t stop piling up on Christmas, so those who collect it don’t rest.

“If we don’t do it, we get backed up with a bunch of garbage,” said driver Sam Locati, one of 25 employees at Pasco-based Basin Disposal who worked Christmas Day. “You get backed up to where you can’t take care of it the next day. You can’t push it back a day. It’s just havoc.”

Locati, 57, picks up trash from 1,000 homes a day on routes in Pasco, Connell and Mesa.

“You take that many people and try to move it around, it doesn’t quite work,” he said. “You might as well do it today and get ’er done.”

So Locati was on the road at 7 a.m. Wednesday, collecting trash from the streets and alleys of Pasco. His five children are grown, but, earlier in his 36-year career, he said they would celebrate the holiday by opening presents and eating dinner on Christmas Eve.

About half of Basin Disposal’s 52 employees work Christmas Day, company officials said, each earning double pay for the holiday shift. The company, which serves about 50,000 customers, has offered service on all holidays since it started in 1941.

Basin Disposal serves some communities that are not allowed to work on Christmas, which officials say shows them the problems that can be created when a day is skipped.

“Really, it’s just like any other day out here, just braving the cold,” said William Pugh, 35, who cleans up after the trucks at the Pasco landfill. Workers do see plenty of wrapping paper on Christmas, as well as old products people are replacing with new gifts, Pugh said.

Pugh said it’s easy for him to celebrate Christmas with his fiancee the night before, because she works Christmas as well, as a caregiver in an adult home.

Most customers know to put their trash out on Christmas, Locati said. But a couple people did rush into the alleys off West Court Street to bring out their garbage cans when they heard the roar of his truck.

“They’re pretty good about it,” he said. “We’ve been doing it for years.”

Customers also are careful about not piling the cans full of large boxes and other items that make them tough to pick up, Locati said. “Just don’t overfill the cans to where it falls on the street and stuff,” he said. Some customers bring garbage collectors cookies, candy, and, occasionally, cash, as a thank you on Christmas, Locati said. Locati said his job was much more labor intensive when workers had to pick up and then dump each can themselves.

Now the trucks make a much faster trip through the neighborhoods, with just the driver aboard, since an automated system allows the truck to quickly pick up the garbage cans and drop the waste into the back. Locati also has a video monitor next to the driver’s seat to show him if there’s a problem he needs to get out of the truck to fix.

“It’s really cleaned up the alleys,” he said of automation. “It’s a lot more efficient. It helps drive the cost down for the customers.” Locati works four 10-hour shifts per week, he said.

Basin Disposal officials said the company collects between 2,000 and 3,000 tons of garbage in Benton, Franklin, Walla Walla, Yakima and Columbia counties each week.

-- Geoff Folsom: 509-582-1543; gfolsom@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @GeoffFolsom

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