Lest we forget, garbage men are also frontliners
By:Jacintha Jolene

WITH about 500 staff including sub-contractors collection teams based in Kuching, Bintulu and Labuan, each Trienekens Sarawak Sdn Bhd staff has a role to play.

It ranges from management, administrative, marketing, logistics and operational aspects of the integrated waste management system including treatment, recovery and disposal of waste.

New Sarawak Tribune reporter, Jacintha Jolene alongside its sister paper’s reporter, Mohd Zahid Mohd Zaki of Suara Sarawak experienced working as a garbage collector for a day and spoke to the workers about their experience in the industry.

Both reporters (from left) pose for a photo with the driver and loader of the day.

Meet the workers

It was raining cats and dogs in the wee hours of a Friday morning but nothing could deter the spirit of these workers to ensure that all garbage is collected and cleanliness is maintained.

Parijo Osman

For 48-year-old loader Parijo Osman, collecting waste come rain or shine and ensuring waste is safely transported and properly disposed of to ensure it is not illegally dumped or ends up in the waterways is one of his roles.

In his 14th year of service since 2008, his work routine starts at 4.30 am and on most days, the collection will be done by 11am or 12 noon, depending on the traffic and the weather.

After collection, Parijo and the team will send the rubbish to the sanitary landfill at Kuching Integrated Waste Management Park (KIWMP) in Mambong.

He admitted that sometimes it can be tiring but he is satisfied with the package he has received with Trienekens.

“Besides monthly salary, the company has proper human resource benefits in place including over-time, incentives, medical benefits, insurance coverage, holidays and leaves.

Suhaili Syusof

Meanwhile, 55-year-old Suhaili Syusof, who has been working as a driver for 21 years, said his role in manoeuvring the waste collection truck through narrow streets is always challenging.

“Our main task is of course collecting waste and ensuring the waste is safely transported and properly disposed of at the landfill in Mambong.

“It would help a lot if vehicles are parked properly and not blocking corners or the entrances or exits of housing areas,” Suhaili added.

He also said his routine is somewhat similar to Parijo and enjoys the same benefits offered by Trienekens.

Weaning off people’s perceptions

According to Parijo, since the pandemic, the public are now friendlier and more appreciative of them (waste collection workers).

“They will speak to us if they want to ask anything about their waste services like how to look after their bin better, how to repair their bin and many more.

“From a workers’ point of view, having clear and organised work procedures in place (such we have in Trienekens), is what guides a worker to carry themselves in public (our behaviour and discipline) and of course that gives a better perception to the public,” he added.

For Suhaili, public awareness has improved a lot over the years.

“I do not feel like there are a lot of negative perceptions about our job as we are earning an honest living. People are more appreciative of our (waste collection workers) contribution to society.”

Of family and their loved ones

As a father of five, Parijo said his family members have no negative views on his profession, adding “I make a good, honest living and they are proud of what I do.”

“I have five children, three boys and two girls. My eldest, 18-year-old son is currently pursuing his studies at Sarawak Skills and the younger ones are still in school.”

Suhaili, who has six children and 11 grandchildren, and his family members, too, expressed similar views as Parijo.

Both reporters collecting household waste at one of the residential areas in the city

“My eldest child is 38 years old and my youngest is 22.

“My family is very proud of me as they have seen that my contribution to Trienekens over the years has been recognised and rewarded by the company,” he added.

Their personal views

Working as a loader, Parijo said the job requires him to be very sensitive and wary of his surroundings.

“Besides looking out for ourselves (from stray animals and heavy loading in bad weather), we also have to act as extra eyes and ears for our team leader (the driver) to ensure safe navigation of the truck in narrow or dark areas.

“The loaders also have to provide feedback to our supervisor on road or bin conditions, illegal dumping activities or other issues that we see,” he added.

Meanwhile, Suhaili has encountered many situations where residents did not bother to throw their rubbish and waste into garbage bags and properly seal them before dumping the waste into the bins.

“This is not only unsanitary but at the same time, it will spoil the bins and attract pests and vermin.

“Thankfully, I can say there has been a lot of improvement in public awareness and their attitude over the years where waste is concerned.

“Most people now do take the initiative to seal their waste in garbage bags.”

Bittersweet memories

Recalling the sweetest memory for them, Parijo said his team managed to receive the 2013 Safety Award for the municipal waste services category during the company’s Health, Safety and Environment (HSE) Week that year.

Parijo Osman

As for Suhaili, he received several excellence awards over the years namely Best Employee for Kuching Logistics and Best Employee Overall and Safety Awards from Trienekens, adding “that has been the highlight of my career.”

However, it is not all sunshine and rainbows for them as well, especially going through the rough times of the pandemic.

Parijo, as part of the rescue team, said a lot of his colleagues were quarantined and the collection services in the city were affected as well.

“There were also a lot of public complaints and that was very difficult and challenging.”

Suhaili who has been in service since 2001, admitted that driving through heavy rain when it’s still very dark is always challenging.

“It requires a lot of patience every time and even commuting to work in the early hours of the morning is challenging at times.”

Public awareness

According to Parijo, public awareness and perception have improved over the years.

“Collecting household waste is all right as most people automatically pack their waste properly and keep their bins in order. The shops are harder to manage because they have so much waste and sometimes outsiders may use their bins too.”

Suhaili echoes the same sentiment, however, he stressed that more civic mindfulness is needed to stop illegal dumping and littering by irresponsible parties.

Suhaili Syusof

Wishes and hope

In their hopes for the future, Suhaili simply wishes and hopes the people of Kuching will always keep the city clean and beautiful.

With Parijo getting older or soon to be in a retirement phase, he hopes to run a small business of his own, adding that he hopes to see his children finish their education and be comfortably settled.

Our humbling experience

Both of us woke as early as 3am, which is the usual time for these workers to start their day. Considering it was a very wet day, with non-stop rain pouring, the journey to Trieneken’s headquarters was quite challenging with a very minimal source of light.

Noting that this is a three D’s job (dangerous, dirty and difficult), the safety of the workers is the organisation’s top priority, therefore, the uniform, which consists of a cap, shirt, overalls, safety gloves and boots is all provided by Trienekens.

We were given the uniform and donned it straight away. Of course, there’s a different air to it, considering that our line of job doesn’t require wearing a uniform. It gave me a sense of pride because this is a noble job, where the workers work hard to maintain the cleanliness of the city and ensure the sustainability of the environment.

It is definitely not an easy task, especially for the weak. Imagine, having to wake up as early as 3am or working the late night shift, manoeuvring the dark roads and dealing with uncertain weather which would inevitably cause delays in waste collection.

Both reporters collecting household waste at one of the residential areas in the city

As much as we complained about our household wastes not being collected on time, we need to bear in mind that certain aspects such as heavy rain would hinder their work. But reiterating Parijo’s words, “collecting waste come rain or shine” is their number one role to ensure cleanliness is maintained.

Hopping on and off one truck during the waste collection at one of the residential areas, with safety boots that were two sizes big for my size, I carried on with the work, in the true spirit of these loaders.

From one residential lane to the other, I slowly got the hang of it. Never mind the stench, because waste is meant to smell bad. Any other job in the world is not an easy job, but we should never undermine the efforts done by these groups of workers who have worked tirelessly to keep our city free from litter.

The image of doctors, nurses and law enforcement personnel going about their business to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic is probably what comes to mind whenever the term “frontliners” is used. However, these workers too deserved to be called the frontliners.

Let us work closely in keeping our city clean and healthy.

New Sarawak Tribune e-Paper

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