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Photo Essay | Hauling It

As City Hall debates waste pickup woes, photographer Dennis Ho captures days in the lives of local haulers

Published on May 3, 2022 at 9:00 pm

As the Jacksonville area knows all too well, trash service isn’t a sure thing. A driver shortage triggered missed pickups by the thousands and prompted a recent six-month pause on curbside recycling pickup and the creation of a special City Council committee. The committee’s challenge is to root out issues behind the driver shortage, such as a city waste fund in a multimillion-dollar hole, contracts with three different waste providers who are paid a wide range of rates per pickup site, and years-long shortfalls in funding for the city’s recycling program. Another consideration is whether a waste transfer station should be built in central Jax, an issue that brought out several opponents at the committee’s most recent meeting.

It’s a complicated problem, and the clock is ticking — the committee must make recommendations to the full Council by June 30th.

Through it all, the men and women who take away our trash go to work day in and day out. They work in an array of roles: driving, hauling, vehicle maintenance, management, customer relations and more. Many clock in while most of us are still sound asleep. Their pay can vary significantly: The city’s contractors advertise waste worker jobs with starting pay ranging from $18 to $24 an hour.

Solid Waste Division employees work 10-hour days, four days a week — officially from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. “It often runs over,” says Solid Waste Division Superintendent Michael Pinckney. “So I say 6 a.m. until…”

For Jacksonville Today, photographer Dennis Ho spent a couple of recent days documenting their work.

Solid waste hauler
5:52 a.m. – It’s nearly time to start the day’s work.
Solid waste hauler inspecting truck
Drivers must inspect their trucks each morning before leaving the yard, including checking and refilling fluids and checking the tire pressure. Charlie Waters conducts his inspection.
Solid waste hauler checking phone

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Solid waste truck
The Solid Waste Division has four recycling trucks. The company runs 14 collection routes on Mondays and 16 routes on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.
Truck 8981 begins its morning route in the Riverside neighborhood of Jacksonville.
Charlie Waters (left) and Leon Wiggins (right) at work in Riverside.
The person who works the back the of the truck is referred to as “the thrower.” John Patterson, the thrower for truck 4235, rides down Hendricks Avenue south of San Marco. 
Thrower John Patterson at work.
Driver
Driver Horace Jenkins watches the thrower through truck’s the sideview mirrors.
Solid waste haulers working in Jacksonville
Sometimes the driver must lend a hand to the thrower. Jenkins (left) offers an assist to Patterson (right).
Patterson working
Shanda Monroe is the only female driver working for Solid Waste Division. All drivers must have a commercial driver’s license.
Deja Green, 21, is the only female “thrower” working for Solid Waste Division. Her recycling crew was working in a neighborhood off Emerson Street.
Monroe has formed a relationship with one of her “customers,” who often drops off cookies for the recycling crew.
Green (left) and Torrence White (right) working a morning route off of Emerson Street.

Intro by Ric Anderson; Photos and captions by Dennis Ho.


author image Photographer Dennis Ho is an experienced Freelance Photographer with a demonstrated history of working in the education management industry. He is a strong arts and design professional with a M.Ed focused in Education; Adult Education from University of North Florida. author image Newsletter Writer / Engagement Editor

Ric Anderson got his first job in a newsroom as a teenager in the 1980s, and he's been in the news business virtually ever since as a news and sports reporter, news editor and opinion editor. A native Kansan, he came to Jacksonville Today after 11 years as an editor at the Las Vegas Sun.

author image Photographer Dennis Ho is an experienced Freelance Photographer with a demonstrated history of working in the education management industry. He is a strong arts and design professional with a M.Ed focused in Education; Adult Education from University of North Florida. author image Newsletter Writer / Engagement Editor

Ric Anderson got his first job in a newsroom as a teenager in the 1980s, and he's been in the news business virtually ever since as a news and sports reporter, news editor and opinion editor. A native Kansan, he came to Jacksonville Today after 11 years as an editor at the Las Vegas Sun.


Sign up for the Jacksonville Today newsletter

Your local weekday newsletter for news and ways to get involved in Northeast Florida.