Meet Pittsburgh’s Very Own Garbologists
The Men and Women Who Keep Our City Clean
by Meg Knorr, Marketing Intern | City Theatre Company
If you’ve been keeping up with City Theatre’s social media accounts, you’ll know that we’ve partnered up with Pittsburgh’s Department of Public Works — Bureau of Environmental Services as part of our community engagement efforts for Lindsay Joelle’s The Garbologists.
Early on in the rehearsal process, route foreman Lee McGinnis stopped by to give the actors and production team a look into what it’s really like to be a sanitation worker, and actors Jason Babinsky and Bria Walker were given a ride-along on an actual truck route! Later, community coordinator/artistic assistant Michelle Iglesias and marketing intern Meg Knorr went on a behind-the-scenes tour of the Bureau of Environmental Services facilities with recycling supervisor Alicia Carberry.
Tarik Phillips (Loader/Driver)
“What I do, basically, is get the trash up. Every week. Day in, day out, same thing: get the trash up.”
Tarik Phillips is one of the men on the front lines collecting waste for the city of Pittsburgh. The story of how he got into sanitation is pretty simple. Tarik, like many others, started out with a CDL (commercial driver’s license) before he became a sanitation worker. He put in an application, got hired, liked it, and has been a “san man” ever since! He enjoys the work and especially the benefits that the job has to offer him and his family. Tarik deals with a lot on the job, and faces hazards every day. Even in icy conditions, he hits the road and faces the dangers hiding beneath the thin plastic layer of each trash bag. Sanitation may not be the most glamorous job, but our city would not be able to function without it. It’s hard to imagine how much worse health conditions would have been over the pandemic if our sanitation workers weren’t there to keep things clean. Tarik’s job is tough both mentally and physically, and it’s people like him who keep Pittsburgh safe for us all.
Lee McGinnis (Route Foreman)
Lee has chosen not to be photographed
“On the workforce, it’s all about your crew.”
Lee McGinnis is a Route Foreman for the Department of Public Works — Bureau of Environmental Services. A typical day on the job for Lee is checking in loaders and drivers for their routes, supervising the workforce, dealing with the public, and handling citations and violations. Lee wasn’t always a supervisor in the division, though. When he first joined the crew he started as a loader, and even before that he used his commercial driver’s license to drive school buses. Lee thinks sanitation is a pretty cool job, and he’s enjoyed each role he’s played throughout his career. As a self-proclaimed early bird, he likes the work hours the job has to offer and is there at the start of each day to support his colleagues. Lee has been an incredible team player and leader both for the Bureau of Environmental Services and for The Garbologists! Lee stopped into rehearsals to answer questions from our actors and production team, and his insight has helped add truth to the tale. When he’s not on the job, you might find Lee grabbing a slice of pizza at Fiori’s, his favorite spot to eat in the city. If you need the number, he’ll be more than happy to recite it for you from memory!
Jim Emro (Route Foreman)
“I thought this was going to be a passing job, and it worked out to be almost thirty years.”
Jim Emro is a Route Foreman and has been in the business for 29 years. He started his career in sanitation as a “groundhog” (truck loader) in 1993, worked his way up to a driver, and bounced around a few divisions before becoming a route foreman in 2005. He’s been with the Bureau of Environmental Services ever since. When he first started in waste collection, he didn’t expect to be there long, but it’s been almost 30 years and Jim has seen it all: truck fires, accidents, singing collection crews, and every Pittsburgher’s baggage. “The mailman knows what you’ve got coming in, and we know what you’ve got going out,” says Jim. “Once you work a neighborhood for a while, you can learn a lot of things about a neighborhood and a lot about people.” From working the job for so long, he could tell you who has a newborn, who’s living alone, and who’s on a budget. There are few people who know the city as well as Jim!
Alicia Carberry (Recycling Supervisor)
“The best part of my job is my colleagues! I love getting to know the people who do this work every day!”
Alicia Carberry is the Department of Public Works recycling supervisor in the Bureau of Environmental Services. Alicia works behind the scenes to help spearhead projects and initiatives to keep as much as possible out of landfills. Previously, Alicia served as the operations assistant in the Mayor’s Office, where she was able to pursue her passion for a healthier environment and make meaningful changes around our city. As the operations assistant, Alicia served on the board for the Clean Pittsburgh Commission (focusing on litter, illegal dumping, and recycling initiatives), and in 2017, she co-founded and began running the annual Pittsburgh Garbage Olympics, a fun event that builds community and helps clean up the city. As the recycling supervisor, she is working on the city-wide blue recycling bin distribution, the City’s drop-off program to recycle TVs, and making sure the people who collect recycling are visible and celebrated.
Thank you to Tarik, Jim, Lee, Alicia, and everyone in Pittsburgh sanitation for making our city a greener place to live! We are so grateful to the Department of Public Works — Bureau of Environmental Services for all of their efforts in supporting City Theatre and The Garbologists.
To learn more about Pittsburgh’s recycling efforts, visit the Environmental Services website.
The Garbologists is on stage NOW through Sunday, May 22. Tickets are available online, in person, or over the phone (412.431.2489). Phone and online fees apply.