Bourree Lam: How did you start working in waste collection, and how long have you been doing it?
Angel Veloz: I’ve always loved trucks, even as a kid. My dad ran Mack trucks and for some reason, I always had it on my mind. I went to college for about two years and I said, "This is not for me." I was studying architecture and I realized that I am not an office person; I need to be outside. I was 18-years-old and that's when I first started driving the truck and said that's it.
I have a brother that lives in Lee County, Florida, who was getting into the trash business. He wanted to get into roll-offs, an elite job in the trash industry where people [pick up big loads], and I wanted to leave California where I was hauling beef. I came here and I started driving for him—it was a hands-on learning experience.
Now, I provide roll-offs for a waste products company. My brother bought one truck, and I worked for him for a year. Then I went into waste management for a company called Florida Recycling. Eventually, my boss moved to a company call Waste Pro, and they brought us over. I've been here [with him] ever since then.
Lam: What's a typical day of work like for you?
Veloz: The night before, I'll call dispatch and say, "Look, tell me what I've got for tomorrow's schedule." I'll get loaded—putting the roll-off container with garbage on the truck—for my first load of the day or my second load of the day. That way, if there's any kind of bad situation first thing in the morning—a truck breaks or things go bad—you're loaded. If you don't fall behind, you can finish dumping the loads at a very good time. Then, as the day goes on, I've got about seven to nine customers a day. My shift runs about 12 hours.
Lam: Who are you picking up trash from?
Veloz: Usually, I handle commercial accounts. My main customer is the Regional Southwest airport here in Fort Myers. I handle all the waste at the airport: from international flight dumpsters, to regular trash, to trash that comes out of the planes, or from their food court. I also pick up dumpsters from regular companies around the airport.
Lam: Is it surprising how much trash an airport produces?
Veloz: Oh my gosh, yes. Especially in the busy season in Florida—which is from Halloween until Easter [when people visit to escape the cold]. It would shock you. It goes through the roof. You get very busy because there are more people flying into the airport, and bringing trash. It's unreal.
During the off-season, loads average between two and three tons and [I handle] eight loads per day on average. That’s about 24 tons. [...] From October to April, it goes way up because people come to Florida to get away from the snow.
Lam: Do you see yourself in the trash business for the foreseeable future?
Veloz: I do. I'm very comfortable with it, but remember, I do roll offs. Roll offs is an elite job in the trash industry. The people that go to do the residential stuff—it's a lot harder work. All I do is put a roll-off cable on a box, put it up on the truck, dump it, and then take it back to the customer. I don't have to do a lot of manual labor. I see myself retiring in this business.