Thank you to our binmen

Dear dustmen/binmen/dustbin men/waste disposal operatives/environmental cleaning personnel etc,

I am writing to thank you once again for the great job you cheerfully do whatever the weather. We try our best to keep our bins clean and our rubbish in the various recycling boxes neat, but I pass other bins and boxes and see what a careless mess they are – yet you bring them over to the bin lorry/dustcart/garbage disposal vehicle, empty them in, sorting when necessary, and returning the now empty containers to the rightful drive.

I remember you – well, not you but your dustfathers, when the bins were not lightweight plastic jobbies, but heavy metal ones which you would heft onto your shoulders and carry out to the stinking dustbin lorry – no closing doors or automatic dispersal – when it got full one of you had to jump inside with a fork and move it all to the back of the truck. In those days your dustfathers wore grey, heavy-duty fabric overalls with a leather slip over the shoulder to protect them – they all wore caps but even so, the dustbin rested up against the side of their heads.

We had a very elderly neighbour, and she often complained to the dustfathers – for being noisy, for making a mess, for just doing their job, I guess. The dustfathers would then make sure as they walked down the garden path carrying the bin, that they tipped it so bits would fall out all the way along… revenge of the dustfathers!

For us children they were always cheery and pleasant, and always whistling – people did a lot of whistling in the past. When my children were small, the dustcarts were more mechanised and the kids would stand by the window and wave at the dustmen who always waved back. In those days each dustcart had a crew of at least half a dozen… these days it’s more likely to be three – and I’ve even seen a crew of two – the driver leaping out to empty bins as well.

So binmen, I would just like to say, once again, thank you so much – and I just must mention how polite and patient you are with other road users who are often impatient, rude and sometimes dangerous as they hurry to squeeze past as you are doing your valuable work.

Thanks binmen, thanks very much! I’d buy you a pint if I could… I’ll make do with offering you a traditional Christmas box – and you can buy your own!



  1. Andrew Petcher

    Good post. I used to work in waste management so know what a tough job it is.

    Did you know that the term dustmen comes from the fact that they principally had to collect bins full of coal dust. In times of open fires people burnt most of their rubbish which meant that most garbage came from the remains of the front room fire. That is why they were called ash carts!

    In the North East they burnt sea coal which had such a low calorific value that after burning about 60% of the coal was left behind and was very heavy, as a consequence bins in Newcastle and around were only a third of the size of those in London.

    Thank goodness for wheelie bins!


    1. Lois

      I think I may have known that way back in the past… and it’s reminded me that teh elderly neighbour I mentioned called them the ashmen… I didn’t know that about heavy ashes though… good grief, what a job! Now I guess it’s all plastic waste!


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