Severed human limbs, priceless watches, and live puppies -- you'd be shocked at the shit people throw in the trash (including actual shit). Yeah, it turns out that being a garbage collector is a way weirder job than you'd think.
Cracked wanted to know what life was like behind that stained plastic curtain, so we reached out to a pair of sanitation workers named Sarah and Andy who make their living hauling away your dirty old bullshit. What they told us was downright alarming ...
#5. Your Trash Collector Knows All of Your Secrets
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If you want to learn somebody's deepest, darkest secrets without hacking their computer or breaking into their house, all you need to do is look through their trash. So there's a good chance your garbage collector knows you better than your own mother knows you.
"I've seen your phone bill; when's the last time you even called your mother?"
If you're a binge-eater, they've seen the evidence. If you use adult diapers, they've found them. Sarah told us about an ultra-Christian lady she had on her route. The lady had a pretty righteous reputation in town, but Sarah knew her only as the woman who printed out enough bestiality porn to make a 10-volume coffee table book of interspecies erotica. She didn't have any kids, so this wasn't a case of some boner-popping 13-year-old printing out weird shit on his mom's computer. And it just kept coming -- every week there was more. Why bother to print it out? Why throw it away? Let us pray that we never find out.
Meanwhile, one day on Andy's route a man came out and tossed his garbage into the back of the truck, where it burst open like a dirty pinata, spilling a good 35-gallon bag full of gay porn everywhere. Too much porn, really. And according to Andy, "It was the same every week -- he'd throw away two 50-gallon bags of DVDs and magazines. Pick your fetish and it'd be in there ... we're pretty sure he must have been a porn distributor or something. No one could go through that much on their own."
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Some say he was a porn vigilante, stealing and shredding for the good of the children.
Andy also once found a box with at least 15 decidedly fanciful vibrators in it. "Some of them looked like they could twirl around and scratch your back," he says. "Anyway, we tossed them, but they wound up shaking out and falling down the sides of our truck." So as they drove off, they left a trail of broken dildos behind them. Whoever owned them was probably pretty surprised when they turned onto their street on the way home from work that day.
It's not all hilarious or embarrassing, though. Sometimes you're party to people's very old tragedies. Sarah once found piles of decades-old baby clothing, toys, and books. They were all unused and pristine aside from being around 50 years old. As if someone had lost a child many years ago and had finally decided to let go of all the stuff they'd been saving.
Seriously, call your mother.
And this is just the stuff that couldn't be used to steal your identity. People throw away an astonishing amount of personal information without bothering to shred any of it -- Sarah has found bank statements, tax documents, and even birth certificates just sitting completely intact in the trash, as if people don't realize there is an entire sector of blue-collar workers who are literally paid to go through their garbage. "Personally, I don't even throw that kind of stuff away anymore," Sarah says. She either keeps it forever or makes sure it's too destroyed for someone to tape it back together like the Penguin in Batman Returns.
Speaking of which ...
#4. They Work With the Police if You Have Incriminating Garbage
You don't see this on cop shows, but the police totally enlist the help of garbage collectors, because you can't expect detectives to go picking through moldy lettuce and cat litter just to solve a murder. They leave that kind of work to the professionals.
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Remember that time Briscoe kept puking on Logan when they were sorting through old diapers at the dump? Didn't think so.
For example, near Sarah's route is a known meth haven, and from time to time the cops would ask her and her co-workers if they had found any particular kinds of trash. "They'd want us to look for certain kinds of containers or chemicals," she says -- basically, anything that would indicate somebody was Breaking Bad out there. If there was a robbery someplace local, she'd be asked to look for burglary paraphernalia. "We got told to keep an eye out for cash registers in the trash at one point," she says, because robbers will take registers home and then just toss them in the garbage and expect no one to notice.
Meanwhile, Andy has had the police take entire loads of trash from him. "Some of my co-workers have had the police come in and shut down their incinerator because they've run across drugs or corpse parts," he says. One company had to stop work at their sorting facility because the police found body parts dumped strategically around town in different places, and they needed to search ALL of the trash to find the whole body. Two years ago, a recycling site near Andy found a human leg, even though legs aren't technically recyclable outside of a Frankenstein scenario.
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You don't want to know what body parts they found in the "cans only" bin.
Oh, and Sarah once had a guy on her route who threw away a bag of puppies. Literally, a bag full of puppies, straight into the garbage can like they were stale Doritos. "Most of them died, and we got as pissed as you'd expect," she says. She called the cops on him, and the guy wound up going to jail for animal cruelty.
#3. What You Flush Winds Up in the Trash
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Have you ever flushed a line of floss, a condom, or a feminine hygiene product down the toilet? You know, because who wants to put that gross stuff in the garbage, right? Well, guess what -- all you did was force somebody else down the line to fish it out and then throw it away. Contrary to popular belief, throwing garbage into pools of water doesn't make it disappear. If you're flushing anything but poop or toilet paper, you're just fucking up the system.
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For instance, goldfish grow into crocodiles, we heard.
Thus, trash collectors regularly have to go collect the cans at water treatment plants, because obviously anything that isn't water gets filtered out and disposed of. So all of those condoms that get flushed? People like Andy and Sarah get to deal with those, only after they've been swimming through miles of sewage and gotten filled back up like Christmas stockings for terrible children. All the insane things that people flush down the toilet ("Jewelry, toys, God only knows what else," Andy says) eventually wind up in a sanitation worker's hands, coated in a sloppy layer of buttstink.
Meanwhile, people frequently throw actual shit in the garbage, just in case forcing trash collectors to sift through rivers of corrupted sewer water wasn't quite enough. In addition to the bags of shit-laced kitty litter you get from pet owners, Sarah runs across plenty of human feces. Not in a diaper, mind you, just tossed loosely into a garbage can like an old magazine. That stuff winds up in the same pile as trash from people getting home care -- we're talking syringes and IV feeds, all covered in human blood, just wrapped up in a plastic garbage bag rather than a sharps container. And right next to it is a pile of milky shit, just waiting to ooze into the cut that bloody syringe made through your work gloves.
Where the fuck is WALL-E when you need him?
Have you ever dumped loose trash into a dumpster, whether because you were in a hurry or just wanted to save a garbage bag? Yeah, don't do that. It turns out there's a reason we're expected to secure all of our waste inside plastic bags, and that's because dumpsters and trash cans break, which means Andy and Sarah have to deal with any of your loose filth that happened to be inside as it goes blowing down the street. "I've had liquid dog crap run out of the trashcan and onto my pants, or splash up into my face and nose," Sarah says, all because the dog's owner couldn't be bothered to put it in a freaking Rite Aid bag or something.
Andy had a customer who just threw condoms out directly into the trash can, not in a bag or anything. This is another way of saying that one of them plopped right out onto Andy's arm. "I was like, 'Do you people have no common sense at all?'" he says. How does that even happen? That guy would've had to carry the condoms, in his hand, all the way out to the garbage. That, or just walk out and shake his dick over the can like it was covered in ants.