Excell Hart heads to Sunset Drive from Royal Street with his truck full of new trash cans to be delivered. He says he has been doing this for so long that he is his own GPS.
Photo by Shirley Ruhe.
Excell Hart checks the orders that have come in since yesterday. He will head out in "my Cadillac" to issue out a new trash container on S. Royal Street and deliver one on N. Alfred where they have never had one. He will probably get about 15 similar requests today. Hart has been a solid waste inspector for the City of Alexandria since 1997. Hart said to request services residents can use the city website or call CCC (call, click, connect.)
Hart has a tab on his computer for requests and another for complaints. He may get about four complaints today. "It could be the neighbor putting out the trash before collection day or dumping trash in the alley." Sometimes one neighbor has two trashcans and another neighbor doesn't have one at all. "I catch a lot of them each day using a neighbor's trash can." But he says they have to comply with the rules. "I generate a lot of money for the city. I'm the trash police."
One time he remembers a woman putting plastic trash bags in a parking space. "Maybe she didn't know; maybe she did." He goes to talk to them to work things out. And he has the details all recorded in the city database so he can sort things out by trash can number and address. Hart pulls out his badge. "This gets more respect." He adds, "It's better to be pleasant. I don't want to escalate. I want to solve the issue." He says he always goes back to monitor the issue to see if the person is in compliance.
Hart says the recycling cans come in 65-gallon, 30 and the "little bucket." People may put in a request for a downsize if their kids go off to college or the garage is too cluttered or their alley is "way way too tight" for a bigger can.
He stops the truck for a moment. "Go ahead; I know you're taking kids to school."
Hart has a large ice chest sitting next to the driver's seat. In the summer he fills it with bottled water and Gatorade and in the winter with hot chocolate. If he sees a city truck he offers the driver a drink. "We're here to render service."
Inspection of trucks — utility, dump and trash — is also part of the job. "Trucks have to pay $300 if they are located in Alexandria and have to be inspected." Hart says the most common problems are "the back-up alarm is bad or the tires mostly." If they have 40-50 trucks like AAA, Hart goes to them but if they have 15 or fewer they bring the trucks to him.
Hart says people consider him a general problem solver. One woman waved his truck down and said she had a problem. "I wondered what it was.” A raccoon had gone through "that little pet door and the jugger was throwing stuff around." Although it wasn't part of his job, he called animal control and they took care of the problem.
Another woman had a battle with a tag team of raccoons getting in her can. One would open the lid and the other would sort through the trash. He told her his own remedy, which was wrapping the can with a bungee cord. "Then I put a little rag soaked with white vinegar around the bungee cord. "They can't get over the smell."
He pulls up to the S. Royal Street address and parks the truck over on the side so cars can get by. "Cars come around but they need to be careful. They don't want to get too close because the back of the truck moves around a little. And I do a lot of stopping." Hart gets out and walks around the yard to check for an existing can. "Sometimes people call in a replacement and then they find their trash can and don't call back to report before we get here." No can is in sight so he delivers number 105953 trashcans to the front yard. "I always put it in the front yard so they see it. People used to call and complain we hadn't delivered their can because they hadn't found it in the backyard yet."
Hart says another service they offer is back door service. "For the elderly or pregnant or if they break a leg. We dump their garbage for them. They can request that we put the can back in a certain place." Harts pulls up at an address on Sunset Drive. He says he has been doing this job for so long he knows the streets like the back of his hand. "I'm my own GPS."